It has finally happened, Tim Walton and the Florida Gators have their softball National Championship as the Gators defeated Alabama in the Women’s College World Series Championship series 2 games to none on Tuesday night.
Walton broke the curse in 2014 by changing hotels and changing the way the Gators practiced in Oklahoma and things worked for the better. It wasn’t all about superstitions, it was about keeping his team calm and focused on the task at hand and their ultimate goal.
Florida had a look and swagger about them that fans haven’t seen from a team in a long time. It all started with Hannah Rogers, who took her calm and charming approach to the game and left the misfortunes of the last two WCWS’s in the rearview mirror and the rest of the team followed suit.
From Kelsey Stewart’s speed game to the long ball of Lauren Haeger and Bailey Castro, the Gators were an offensive machine in the World Series from top to bottom. That’s something Tim Walton is smiling about, as he’s an offensive guru from his time spent on the diamond at Oklahoma as a player.
Kirsti Merritt struggled for the last month of the season but she rebounded in a big way this postseason, as did Stephanie Tofft, who couldn’t get out of her own way on defense in the Super Regionals but rebounded with web gem after web gem in the World Series.
This wasn’t your normal Florida softball team that knocked pitch after pitch into the bleachers. This was a team that was built on the baseball background of Walton where the team won with a good batting average and top-notch defense.
ESPN raved and raved about the defense that backed up Rogers during the World Series but let’s face it, this defense has been superb all year; from Justine McLean pulling a ball from over the fence to save home runs to Aubree Munro gunning potential base stealers out at second.
While we are on the topic of defense, we can’t forget about the superb pitching of Haeger and freshman pitcher Delanie Gourley who confused hitters with her southpaw change up that just drove opposing batters onto their front foot.
With all that said it done now, I can say that this has been a fun season despite the three game sweep from Tennessee and the terrible loss at the SEC tournament this team never gave up and continued to impress with the calm approach that so many teams before them lacked.
The calm but energetic approach comes from the top with Walton, who jumped up and down after Taylore Fuller crushed a game winning and world series clinching grand slam against Washington in the Super Regionals.
Walton’s energy and enthusiasm carries over to his players as the ladies always look like they are having a great time and enjoying the game even as they are playing with the rally Twizzlers in the dugout while teammates bat.
The Gators dedicated this season to a special girl Heather Braswell, who lost her battle with cancer and I know she’s looking down smiling on this team after Tuesday’s win.
To close this season, I want to personally say that I’m proud that I was able to cover this team. I had fun watching this team grow and overcome adversity and I enjoyed a season of softball more than I ever could have imagined.
And on a personal note, thank you Tim Walton and ladies for beating Alabama as I now have bragging rights at home in Mobile, Alabama.