Softball Challenging the Thesaurus

It was a month ago that I wrote about the amazing season the Gator softball team was having. At the time, the Gators were 31-2 after opening the season with a 19-game winning streak.

Well, a month later the Gators still have two losses, but they have added another 15 wins to post an overall season record of 46-2. Can you imagine the reaction in these parts if football, basketball or baseball put together such a mark over 48 games? It would be virtually indescribable.

Tim Walton's squad is 18-1 in the SEC, just a half game ahead of Alabama in the conference title race. The two teams split a doubleheader in Tuscaloosa and do not play again. Alabama has eight SEC games remaining with five of them on the road. The Gators have nine SEC games to play and six of them will be in Gainesville where the team is unbeaten.

As you would expect the statistics this team is posting defy the imagination. Florida has outscored its opponents 278-56, that's almost a five-to-one ratio. The Gators have out-homered the opposition 42-to-6, they have out-hit the teams they've played .315 to .175. Those numbers are just crazy.

Leading the way all season long has been Stacey Nelson, the junior pitcher who has posted a 30-2 record in the circle. Nelson has already become Florida's all-time leading winner with 78 and will pretty much own the record book before her career ends late next year. Nelson has recorded 236 strikeouts and seems a lock to break the single season record of 285 she shares with Jenny Gladding. Nelson has been ably supported by freshman Stephanie Brombacher who is 14-0.

Offensively Florida has been getting contributions throughout the lineup. Leadoff hitter Kim Waleszonia sets the tone with her .368 batting average, 18 stolen bases and 38 runs scored. She is backed up by a quartet of bats that produce solid averages, homers and RBI. That group is led by first baseman Ali Gardiner (.404, 6, 40) and rightfielder Mary Ratliff (.353, 8, 39). Add in Francesca Enea (.291, 11, 37) and Megan Bush (.286, 8, 27) and you have a team that's very tough to pitch to.

The Gators put their No. 3 ranking on the line against Florida State Wednesday before returning to SEC play in Gainesville against Kentucky. It seems hosting NCAA action is a foregone conclusion and this team just may be the first to reach the College World Series at the end of the year. Not bad for a third year coach (Tim Walton) and a team that has just one senior (Ratliff).

Questions or comments? Contact's Larry Vettel

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