COURTESY OF UAA COMMUNICATIONS
Florida (58-10) has made eight WCWS trips in the last 10 years and has now played in the WCWS Championship Series five times (2009, 2011, 2014, 2015, 2017).
This season in Oklahoma City, UF represented their conference and university well with five WCWS All-Tournament Team members, highlighted by sophomore Amanda Lorenz. Oklahoma (61-9) rallied for its second-straight title and third in five years with 7-5 (17 innings) and 5-4 wins over Florida.
OU's Shay Knighten garnered Most Outstanding Player honors for the Women's College World Series.
Along with Lorenz, junior Aleshia Ocasio, senior Justine McLean, sophomore Kelly Barnhill and senior Delanie Gourley were named to the 2017 WCWS All-Tournament Team. UF won three games in OKC this season to move its record to 13-3 at the WCWS since the start of the 2014 season.
That win total marks the most in the country.
In addition to its impressive postseason run, Florida clinched its third-straight SEC Regular Season Championship. UF became the first team in league history to accomplish that feat.
OU struck first in the bottom of the first inning, as Nicole Mendes recorded a leadoff home run for the Sooners.
Florida quickly answered with a Sophia Reynoso solo home run to lead off the top of the second inning. That long ball was her third homer of the season and first since March 19.
One walk and a pair of singles later, Aleshia Ocasio recorded a two-out RBI single to right field to give Florida its first and only lead of the game.
Following the single, OU removed Paige Parker (1.2 IP, 4 H, 3 ER, 0 K, 3 BB) and brought in rookie Mariah Lopez with the bases loaded. After Kayli Kvistad brought Florida's lead to 3-1 with an RBI on a hit by pitch, Lopez induced a fly out to end the inning.
Undaunted, Oklahoma responded with four runs on four hits in the bottom of the second inning.
OU loaded the bases with one out, which prompted a pitching change from Florida. Delanie Gourley, who threw 127 pitches on Monday and 104 on Sunday, replaced Ocasio (1.1 IP, 4 H, 4 ER, 0 K, 1 BB) in the circle.
Florida's senior lefty struck out Nicole Mendes for the second out of inning, but walked OU's Caliegh Clifton and surrendered a bases-clearing double to Shay Knighten.
The walk and double push Oklahoma ahead of Florida, 5-3.
In the top of the third, senior Chelsea Herndon answered with a solo home run to center field.
On her birthday no less.
However, that was as close as Florida would come.
In the 6th, Florida pushed a runner into scoring position following a leadoff single, but could not score her.
Oklahoma turned to its ace, Paige Lowary, following Jordan Roberts' leadoff single. The Sooner lefty retired the only six batters she faced to secure the win.
On the team's fight during the championship series...
"Yeah, I had an in-game interview and I mentioned to Holly (Rowe), we've got to find a way to get another run up there before we can get Paige Lowary coming in at the end and we knew what she was going to be able to do. Overall I thought we were prepared. We tried to do everything we could to get that run, runner at second base, I think, with one out in the sixth. We had a chance.
"But I'm proud. I can't tell you -- again, I know our players -- we questioned their toughness breaking camp for the fall, and they all took notice and they worked hard and they put in the extra effort. They did all the things that they needed to do. We had a lot of kids that have really put in above and beyond what we ask of them because they all have high expectations for being great.
"Our coaching staff works really hard, but again, I think to get to this point, it takes a special group of players that really has a drive for their own -- not perfection, but greatness. So I give not only these three (Amanda Lorenz, Chelsea Herndon and Aleshia Ocasio) but the rest of our team, the other 15 women, just a tip of my cap for how hard they work and just how much they really appreciate each other."
"I thought we came in this morning, and I thought we really did everything we needed to do to prepare to get ready for tonight's game, and I thought we took care of ourselves and took care of each other. But overall just proud of our effort. Congratulations to Coach (Patty) Gasso on another national championship and to the University of Oklahoma.
"Just thanks to the NCAA, ESPN, OKC All-Sports, University of Oklahoma hosting this tournament. It's a great event. Just an awesome event when you get that many people in there cheering, and then the crowd, I thought the crowd was great and I give a lot of credit to the OU fans for being very respectful. They were cheering and chanting and doing their cheers and nothing was ever any negative tone toward us. They were just cheering the heck out of their team and I give them a lot of respect for competing the right way with a lot of class, so congratulations."
On taking solace in finishing the season in Oklahoma City...
"Yeah, definitely. It feels better to end our season here instead of Gainesville like last year. Just really proud of the fight that we've shown and the growth that we've shown. Like Coach (Tim Walton) was saying, I didn't really know what our identity was coming in in the fall, and we just grew every single day. And every single day someone stepped up, and this team was so special because everybody contributed at any time, and everybody had the mindset that if they were put into the game they were going to get something done for their teammates. Just excited about the growth that we had, and proud that we ended our season here for sure. Wish we came out on top. But it happens."
"I completely agree with Amanda. It's an honor to be here and blessed to have been here to battle with other girls on my team. You know, we came up shorthanded. They played a great game. We had a hard fight both games, and we just didn't come out on top. We're going to come back next year with a
hard fight, as well."
"I agree with that, too. Any time you end your season in OKC it's a great season. It's an honor to be one of the last two teams playing in the nation. You are the softball game to watch, and it's pretty awesome. Yeah, this team was amazing."
* During Tim Walton's tenure as head coach, UF is 75-27 in NCAA play and 25-14 at the WCWS.
* In addition to being Florida's head coach during its 2014 and 2015 NCAA Championship teams, Tim Walton was a part of national championship teams as a baseball player and an assistant softball coach at Oklahoma.
o Walton began his softball-coaching career as an assistant softball coach for the University of Oklahoma (1999-2002) where he was the hitting instructor and the outfielders coach. During his time in Norman, the Sooners sons at OU, the Sooners won three Big 12 titles and made three consecutive WCWS appearances, including winning the 2000 NCAA title.