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SOFTBALL

Up and away: Florida softball advances to NCAA Super Regional with win over South Alabama

Noah Ram
Gainesville Sun

The gates at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium will welcome the Orange and Blue faithful for another weekend.

Florida cruised to a 9-1 win over South Alabama Sunday afternoon at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium to win the NCAA Gainesville Regional.

The Gators will advance to Super Regionals for the first time in two years and will host for the first time since 2021 after a perfect 3-0 weekend at regionals, outscoring opponents by a combined score of 24-2.

UF has now also won 11 in a row and hasn't lost since April 27 at Georgia, over three weeks ago.

They'll host Baylor next week in Super Regionals. The Bears upset No. 13 Louisiana-Lafayette 4-3 in a winner-take-all game seven to win the Lafayette Regional and advance to Supers for the seventh time in program history.

Coach Tim Walton said postgame that in games like Sunday, when the Gators pitching is on, they prove tough to beat.

"I know this team can score runs, so I think that makes it really fun to take the ball knowing you got a chance to win the ball game, and you don't have to worry about being perfect, and you can give it a run and we can still find a way to win," Walton said. "When this offense goes it really goes."

Florida, marked as the "visitors" due to NCAA rules, wasted no time getting going.

Jocelyn Erickson ended her RBI drought in a big way with a mammoth two-run bomb in the first inning.

The SEC Player of the Year hadn't driven in a run since the victory over Texas A&M in the SEC Tournament.

Erickson said Walton approached her pregame and told her to focus on herself, not the pitcher.

"That's what I was going out there to do," Erickson said. "I knew we needed to get ahead early in the game."

The Gators fully blew the ballgame open with a seven-run third inning. In that frame, Erickson, Skylar Wallace and Reagan Walsh drove in one run. Ava Brown and Korbe Otis drove in two each on singles.

For Wallace, it extended her hit streak to 11 and her RBI streak to 10.

In the circle, Tim Walton gave the ball to Keagan Rothrock for her seventh start in a row. As usual, the freshman from Indiana slayed with one hit acquiesced and four strikeouts.

Walton struggled whether to go with Rothrock or Brown. He chose Keagan because as he said "if it ain't broke, don't fix it."

"That being said that was just a lot easier to go to sleep tonight knowing that that made that decision as opposed to maybe doing something different," Walton said.

Brown did enter in the third with Florida up big. The freshman from Texas allowed one earned run in her three innings of action.

Brown noted it felt good to get the rock in postseason play and gain confidence.

Florida Gators pitcher Ava Brown (00) catches the ball for an out against the Texas A&M Aggies during the game at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium at the University of Florida in Gainesville, FL on Friday, May 3, 2024. Matt Pendleton/Gainesville Sun

"Being able to work with veteran catchers and work behind Keagan, making sure that you know she's hitting her spot," Brown said. "She's doing what she's supposed to do, and then being able to come in and compliment her the way I do."

The Gators have now advanced to their 15th Super Regional and will look to travel to OKC for their 11th WCWS.

For Brown, this standard and these moments are why she chose to trek 875 miles from Montgomery, Texas, to Gainesville.

"You choose to come to a program like this because you want to win. That's what this program does. They have a standard," Brown said. "Our team has been one of the first teams in a really long time that I feel like has truly focused on that standard and really tried to make it everything that we play for."

FGCU Eagles Meagan Ricks (6) and Florida Gators Skylar Wallace (17) during the NCAA regional softball game between the University of Florida and Florid Gulf Coast University at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium in Gainesville, FL on Friday, May 17, 2024. [Chris Watkins/Gainesville Sun]

The Gainesville Super Regionals official start date is TBD, but it will begin Thursday or Friday at KSP. Super Regionals is a best two-out-of-three, meaning the final game could be Saturday or Sunday.

Noah Ram covers Gainesville-area high school sports and University of Florida athletics for The Gainesville Sun. Contact him atֱNram@gannett.comֱand follow himֱֱon Twitter.