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Women’s College World Series open thread: Gators and Sooners begin battle for softball supremacy

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Florida is playing for their third national championship in four seasons.

After whipping through Texas A&M, LSU, and Washington, the Florida Gators find themselves back in the finals of the Women’s College World Series for the third time in four years. Of course, the Gators’ previous two trips to the championship series in that span resulted in Florida’s back-to-back national titles in 2014 and 2015.

But the Gators are not the only softball team that can claim two titles in the past four years - so too can the Oklahoma Sooners, winners of the 2013 and 2016 titles.

No. 1 seed Florida faces No. 10 seed Oklahoma in a best-of-three series for the 2017 national championship, beginning tonight at 7:00 p.m., airing on ESPN.

These two teams, which are the cream of the college softball crop, will meet for the first time since 2005. And it’s only appropriate that the two programs, who each have won half of the national titles since 2013, will met again in the WCWS finals.

Florida enters this best-of-three series after eliminating Washington, 5-2, in what was very close to being their third straight shutout at the WCWS. The Gators had previously dominated Texas A&M, 8-0, and wiped out LSU, 7-0, on the road to their perfect record so far at the WCWS.

And the Gators are currently firing on all cylinders. As has been the case, the defense and pitching have been top notch, but Florida has also scored more runs (20) in their three WCWS games than they did in five of their seven three-game SEC series this season. The Gators have outscored their three WCWS opponents 20-2, and are hitting a collective .348 in the WCWS.

For their part, the defending national champion Oklahoma Sooners also make the finals sporting a perfect record in Oklahoma City. The Sooners bested Oregon, 4-2, in yesterday’s other semifinal. Prior to their defeat of the Ducks, OU took out Baylor, 6-3, and Washington, 3-1. Oklahoma has won nine straight since dropping their regional opener, and has outscored opponents 46-17 in the process.

Florida is only 1-4 all-time against the Sooners, but as mentioned, the two teams have not met since before Tim Walton or Tim Tebow were Gators.

There are plenty of ties between the two programs however. Florida head coach Tim Walton and pitching coach Jennifer Rocha are both OU alumni, and both served on Oklahoma softball staffs under current Sooners head coach Patty Gasso.

Playing in Oklahoma City, the Sooners should have an atmosphere advantage. OU’s campus is about 30 miles south of the stadium. UF has been deemed the favorite between the two, and the Sooners are embracing an underdog role and a “David vs. Goliath” mentality, according to Gasso.

Florida is making its fifth championship series appearance since 2009 - the most in the country during that span. The Gators also are 13-1 at the WCWS since 2014, another unmatched achievement.

Tonight, Florida has a chance to add another win to that total, and to move one game closer to a third national championship.

Full Women’s College World Series bracket information and times can be found here.