Tim Walton and the Florida Gators softball would never say aloud that it was Oklahoma City or bust for the Gators softball in 2015, but the truth of the matter is that it actually was.
Talk about pressure for a team!
Florida returned all but two starters from last year’s National Championship team and started the year at No. 1, which meant everyone was going to give the Gators their best shot. That didn’t faze this team.
Taking every team’s best shot was something that Florida was able to handle as the Gators started off the year with a school record 28-consecutive wins before falling in SEC play to LSU. Florida did, however, finish the non-conference portion of the schedule undefeated.
The Gators finished off the regular season with a 50-6 record and the SEC Championship, which earned Tim Walton’s ladies the No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament and home field advantage all the way until the targeted goal of Oklahoma City.
Almost like a story book story would go, the Gators are heading back to Oklahoma City this week to defend their 2014 National Championship and while the Gators may not have Hannah Rogers on the mound this week, they will surely be coming out fired up after handling their business in Regionals and Super Regionals.
“No one is going to be talking about us on the Sunday night softball show, about how the No. 1 seed went down, a major upset in college softball,” Florida coach Tim Walton told GatorZone.com. “We’ve handled the pressure. Now, let’s go out and have fun and figure out who we are and how we’re going to handle it.”
If the past two weekends have shown anything, it’s that Florida’s pitching staff will be ok at the World Series, as the Gators are the only team in the postseason this year to not allow a run to be scored against them.
That’s right, the Gators have allowed a big “0” to teams this postseason and as both National Player of the Year Lauren Haeger and Walton said, it’s tough to lose that way.
“If you don’t give up a run, you usually win,” Haeger said.
“Lauren didn’t say it right,” Tim Walton said. “If you don’t give up a run, you can’t ever lose.”
Heading into Oklahoma City the Gators are surely going to give up a run, but the good news is that Florida has the bats to score some runs and they have the experience of winning a National Championship to help calm the nerves of the bright lights of the World Series.
If you’re surprised by this team then you haven’t listened to Walton speak. He knew the pressure was going to be on his team, but he has always created a relaxed, albeit work like environment for his team.
For example, Walton makes all of his players clock in and out when they arrive to the field for practice or a game to simply justify that his players are there to work.
You will also notice all of the players carrying metal lunch boxes with them and they are filled with different things like Life Savers candy and super glue to help remind this team that they are just that — a team.
In closing of this story I just want to personally say that I expect this team to come out with a sense of urgency and to be ready to play on Thursday against the Tennessee Volunteers.