Gator Softball Earns No. 1 Overall Seed

For the second year in a row the Gator Softball team will enter the NCAA Tournament as the No. 1 overall seed in the field of 64 teams competing for the NCAA Championship. Florida will host a regional tournament this weekend, welcoming Florida A&M, Lehigh and Texas A&M to Gainesville.

It's an ironic sort of pairing, considering Texas A&M beat the Gators in the College World Series last year. The Aggies advanced to the finals of the CWS where they lost to Arizona State. The Gators will play the Rattlers in the first round of the double-elimination event while Texas A&M faces Lehigh.

This has been another remarkable season for Tim Walton and his squad. Florida's fourth-year coach guided his team to a 55-3 record; won 26-of-27 SEC games in winning their second straight conference title and this weekend claimed the SEC Tournament title as well. The Gators will take a 21-game winning streak into the NCAA Tournament.

Walton appeared on the NCAA Selection Show on ESPN-U and said last year's experience should help this year's team.

"When you only graduate one player (RF Mary Ratliff) and she's still on our coaching staff I think it's a huge advantage to know what the expectations are. We exactly know what we have to put into this post-season run."

Florida has been led all season long by senior All-American pitcher Stacey Nelson who brings a 35-3 record and microscopic 0.43 ERA in the NCAA Tournament. Walton was asked about the importance of Nelson to the Gator program.

"She's been one of the key components of our success over the last four years. She's someone who bought in to exactly what we were looking for when we first arrived on the scene here in Gainesville. She's also been the heartbeat and soul of our team when it comes down to work ethic and preparation. She gives us a great chance not only on the field but off the field and in the weight room as well."

Florida's numbers this season often defy description. The Gators had six players who each hit more home runs than Florida's opponents hit all season (5). The Gators out-scored their opponents 387-49, making the average score 7-1. The Gators enjoyed all this success despite losing centerfielder Kim Waleszonia, the school's all-time hits leader for more than half the season.

The 16 regional winners will advance to Super Regional tournaments the following weekend where they will play best two out of three games for a spot in the College World Series in Oklahoma City. The Gators made their first trip to the CWS a year ago, coming up one run shy of a berth in the national finals.

If the seeds hold, the Gators would host Florida State in the Super Regional. The Seminoles will have a much tougher regional field than the Gators will with Oklahoma State, California and Mississippi State all coming to Tallahassee.

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