Softball Season Still Sensational

It always hurts to come up short when you get close to your ultimate goal. Whether it's the 1995 football team, 2000 basketball team or 2005 baseball squad, the Gators have had to deal with that sort of disappointment before and undoubtedly it will again. It takes time, but the pain will fade and the pride of accomplishment will endure.

As so it should be for the Gator softball team, which finished second in the Women's College World Series for the second time in three years. Just as it did two years ago against Washington, it hurt the Gators to come up short against Arizona State. It might hurt a little bit more that neither game was competitive this time, but ASU was clearly the better team. And being the second best team in the nation is something to be proud of.

Florida's senior class of Stephanie Brombacher, Kelsey Bruder, Megan Bush, Aja Paculba and Tiffany DeFelice has set the bar impossibly high for Gator teams in the future. We'll look at their individual accomplishments in a future column, but today it's about what they did collectively.

This class posted a 238-33 record in its four seasons, which averages out to a 59-8 record. Over the past four years, this group won 94 of 107 SEC games and claimed the SEC East Title all four years. Florida's seniors won a pair of SEC Titles, and if not for the conference's bizarre tie-breaker system, would have claimed at least a share of two more.

The Gators went to four Super Regionals and won all eight games at that stage, earning trips to the College World Series. The senior class helped break the school single season HR record each year of their Gator careers, leading the nation this past season. Florida set another standard this season when they opened the season with 24 consecutive wins.

Coach Tim Walton had a nice resume when he was hired by Jeremy Foley six years ago, but since he took over the Gator program he has made Florida the best program in American outside of the Pac-10. Walton is 331-80 in his six seasons and shows no signs of letting up with the No. 1 recruiting class in the nation coming in for 2012.

It took the Gator basketball program three trips to the Final Four before they came home with the ultimate prize. The 1994 and 2000 teams didn't win it all, but those squads showed Florida it could compete with the best. The 2011 Gator softball team has done the very same thing, and when Tim Walton's program reaches the top of college softball, these five ladies will be remembered as the ones who proved it could be done.

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