Florida softball is just a few wins away from lifting its third national championship in four years. The Gators will begin their campaign for the crown on Thursday afternoon in the the Women's College World Series in Oklahoma City.
UF made its mark this season by being one of the toughest teams to score on in the country. The No. 1 team in the country did not surrender a run in 38 of their 63 games. Much of that success comes from a great pitching staff led by both Kelly Barnhill and Delanie Gourley- Barnhill had a 0.36 WRS this year, recording 333 strikeouts, while Gourley had a 0.67 ERA.
So who do Florida need to beat in order to move to the championship game? Here is a look at their side of the bracket.
No. 9 Texas A&M
The Aggies have struggled with pitching rotation the last few weeks. Texas A&M surrendered 16 runs in the three-game series against Tennessee. However, they do have the bats to offer some offense - scoring 11 runs in the series against the Vols.
Texas A&M has worked through a few adversities this year. not only did they clinch their spot int he tournament after a come from behind 5-3 on Sunday, they are also dealing with a more personal tragedy. Aggies pitcher Trinity Harrington' father recently passed away, and her teammates are not only rallying behind her but have also said they are playing in his honor.
No. 5 UCLA
The Bruins are opposite to the Gators. It's not their pitching staff that has brought them this far but their bats. UCLA is averaging 1.27 home runs a game this year, which is third-best in the country, and they have been able to knock one out in the last 11 games. UCLA scored 36 runs to remain perfect in both the regional and super regional to clinch their spot in the WCWS.
On the flip side, look out for redshirt freshman pitcher Rachel Garcia. She is a top-three finalist for the National Freshman of the year Award.
No. 13 LSU
LSU is another team in the tournament that has relied on its pitching staff for wins, like Florida. The Tigers have allowed under two runs per game in the NCAA tournament. The unit is led by Carley Hoover and Allie Walljasper - 1.11 ERA and 1.37 ERA respectively.
The Tigers are not a team to be underestimated. LSU has proved time and time again they can come back after playing in in several elimination games in the last three seasons and surviving.
On the other side of the bracket is: Oregon, Washington, Oklahoma, and Baylor.
Here is just a quick look at the games for the first two days:
Thursday, June 1
Game 1 | noon | Texas A&M vs. Florida | ESPN
Game 2 | 2:30 p.m. | UCLA vs. LSU | ESPN
Game 3 | 7 p.m. | Washington vs. Oregon | ESPN2
Game 4 | 9:30 p.m. | Oklahoma vs. Baylor | ESPN2
Friday, June 2
Game 5 | 7 p.m. | Winner Game 1 vs. Winner Game 2 | ESPN
Game 6 | 9:30 p.m. | Winner Game 3 vs. Winner Game 4 | ESPN
Here is the full bracket: