Softball Team Ready for Next Step

The Gator Softball team had to wear a bull's eye for most of the season and they wore it well. Tim Walton's team posted a 55-3 record, won its second straight SEC Championship and second consecutive tournament title as well. But that was then. This is now.

The Gators begin their quest for a return to the College World Series when they host Florida A&M, Lehigh and Texas A&M in an NCAA Regional. The Gators will play the Rattlers Friday following the opening game between the Aggies from Texas and Lehigh.

FAMU comes in with a 30-30 record after winning the MEAC Tournament Championship. Walton offered up his thoughts on his opening opponent.

"When you look at Florida A&M they had to win their way to be here, so they know how to win. They've played some good games and they have some post-season experience as well."

FAMU has hit just 12 homers this season. The Gators have three players who have topped that number. Their top player is Melissa Oliphant who brings in a .316 average with team high totals in doubles (10), homers (5) and RBI (27). She is also the Rattlers' number two pitcher behind likely starter Amanda Reyes (22-18, 2.31). The only ranked team they have faced is FSU who they lost to 5-0 and 5-1.

The Gators are saying all the right things about taking it one game at a time, but there's no question there's something extra about having Texas A&M in town. The Aggies eliminated the Gators in the Super Regional out in College Station two years ago and took the Gators out of the college World Series in a superb game last year. Florida senior pitching ace Stacey Nelson admits the rematch with the Aggies is on her mind.

"I'm excited to play Texas A&M. They are always tough and bring strong competition to the field, but I think our history will make it even more exciting. People are coming up and asking if I'm excited that A&M is here, and yes I'm excited they are here but our number one goal is just coming out of the Regional and hopefully winning all the games."

Sophomore second baseman Aja Paculba had a different sort of reaction when she saw that the Gators' nemesis was headed to Gainesville.

"I kind of laughed. I thought it was funny. I think that it's motivation to go on to the Supers and then the World Series if we can beat them. It's awesome to have it here and we have our home field and everything."

If the Gators and Aggies both win on Friday they will meet at 1:00 Saturday in a key winner's bracket game. The winner of that won will be in the driver's seat to win the Regional.

The winner of this Regional will face the winner of the Regional in Tallahassee in the Super Regional. If the Gators win they will be home again next weekend.

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