1. While the other 7 teams in Oklahoma City have been struggling to get the bats going, the Gators have been the exception. What can we expect from the Gator offense in this series?
Runs, probably. Florida's got threats up and down its lineup (every starter except Kathlyn Medina has a hit in Oklahoma City), and an incredible combination of speedsters (Kelsey Stewart, Kirsti Merritt) and bruisers (Bailey Castro, Lauren Haeger, Stephanie Tofft) to trot to the plate. They see pitches very well, work counts, and generally do a good job of taking what's given -- though that's obviously a different sort of challenge against Jackie Traina.
2. When the Tide traveled to Gainesville during the regular season, Bama took the series 2-1. What kind of adjustments do you think we're going to see by the Florida staff to try to prevent a repeat?
Presuming that having Traina declared ineligible is off the table, I think Florida's patience at the plate is the biggest adjustment the Gators have made at the plate. The lineup hasn't changed much since then, apart from vets Briana Little and Medina relegatng freshmen Chelsea Herndon and Justine McLean to spot duty, and Medina playing full-time at short has bolstered Florida's defense, but that's less an adjustment for 'Bama than one for Florida.
Of course, the biggest change, period, has been the play of Hannah Rogers. She's mixing speeds and hitting spots like never before, and, apart from one inning against Baylor on Sunday, has been virtually untouchable in the NCAA Tournament. If she's on, she's going to make good contact very difficult to accomplish.
3. Florida has outscored their opponents in this tournament 70-7. What is the pitching staff, including ace Rogers, doing to consistently beat batters?
Location, location, location. Rogers has never been an overpowering pitcher, but she's gotten better late this year -- I think most close observers would agree this postseason has been her best stretch as a Gator -- by being accurate and smart with her repertoire, and keeping things low or outside to a degree that frustrates batters into bad groundouts and weak fly balls.
Rogers is presumably the only pitcher Alabama's going to see in this series, much as Traina should be Florida's horse, so I wouldn't worry too much about Haeger and Delanie Gourley, but know that they have slightly less sharp versions of the Rogers oeuvre in case one of them is called on in relief.
4. Oklahoma City is always a pretty rowdy crowd, and these two teams aren't exactly friendly - how do you think the atmosphere is going to impact this series?
While I imagine Alabama's going to have a slight edge in partisan crowd support because of proximity, the Tide's vanquishing of Oklahoma seems likely to make more neutral fans into Gators for convenience's sake. Whether that's actually going to produce an edge, I don't know -- I doubt it, honestly.
5. Given the rest of the season, these games could easily be high scoring or pitchers' duels. Which type of game do you think gives Florida more of an edge?
I think slugfests favor Florida, which still has pop about 95 percent of the sport lacks. Pitchers' duels will probably give Alabama a slight edge, because Traina's been at this level and pitched for a title before; Rogers, for all her greatness, hasn't.
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