‘A different journey’ lands Florida in the Women’s College World Series for 11th time

Florida head coach Tim Walton before an NCAA softball game against Georgia on Friday, May 28, 2021 in Gainesville, Fla. (AP Photo/Gary McCullough) (Gary McCullough, Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

On Thursday, the Florida Gators will play in the Women’s College World Series for the 11th time. But this is the first time they ever had to win a Super Regional on the road. When they did, they lost the first game at Virginia Tech.

Although Oklahoma is the prohibitive favorite in the WCWS, Florida’s resilience and ability to focus on the moment should serve them well in Oklahoma City.

The Gators open the series at 7 p.m. against Oregon  State on Thursday.

“I think one thing about Florida culture is that we don’t dwell on the past,” infielder Skylar Wallace said. “Every day you go out there, you try to get better and do the best that you can to win a ballgame. Unfortunately on Friday, we didn’t do what we wanted to do and our intentions weren’t there the right way, but we came back on Saturday a different team.”

The Gators program, and head coach Tim Walton, have been here before. Walton guided Florida to back-to-back championships in 2014 and 2015 and the Gators last made the WCWS in 2019. So there is some institutional knowledge about how to approach this phase of the season.

“That’s why you come to Florida to play for championships and to win SEC championships go to the World Series,” infielder Hannah Adams said. “I mean, at times I think the expectations can get to you but I think this team has really embraced just taking it one game at a time and really not letting the last game affect our next game or last at bat affect the next at bat just trying to embrace every single moment and not take anything for granted.”

They’ve certainly gotten hot at the right time, winning 12 of their last 16. While pitching has been strong all year, the bats have come alive lately. That, and reliable defense, has been the key to Florida making the run to the World Series. Interestingly, the Gators didn’t face any of the other seven teams in the Series this year. But that changes Thursday night.

“You know, it’s a different journey,” Walton said. “We’ve been here 10 previous times through Gainesville, Florida, and to pack our bags and you know, to get on the road and head to Blacksburg and you know, go in and win and not only win but win the way we did and to be able to handle not only the adversity but the road travel and all the fun things that go with being on the road this is an exciting time for us.”