- ed: consider this your game thread for tonight. Roll Tide!
It is said, the greater the challenge, the greater the opportunity.
Well, this weekend, the University of Alabama has the greatest opportunity in all of college softball: the chance to knock off the #1 seed Florida Gators in Gainesville—less than a week after taking two from the nation’s top-ranked team, Minnesota. And just as the Golden Gophers played with a chip on their shoulders due to an inexplicable snub from the NCAA selection committee, Florida will look to avenge last year’s season ending loss to the Georgia Bulldogs in the Gainesville Super Regionals. The challenge doesn’t get any greater. The statistics seem to favor the Gators, but read this all the way through and don’t count out the Crimson Tide.
Pitching: slight edge Florida
Florida’s pitchers Kelly Barnhill and lefty Delanie Gourley, with occasional innings from Aleshia Ocasio, have the nation’s best team ERA of .71 and a record of 53-7. Alabama’s Alexis Osorio and Sydney Littlejohn have an ERA of 1.51 to go with a record of 45-16. Florida’s pitchers have a combined 597 strike-outs, Alabama’s have 531. Florida has given up 40 earned runs all season, Alabama has surrendered 89, more than twice as many. Perhaps the most telling/scary stat: Florida has given up only 6 home runs this season to Alabama’s 27.
As great as Alabama pitching has been this season, Florida has been a touch better.
Batting: big edge Florida
Florida’s team batting average is .308, Alabama’s is twenty points less at .280. Individually the line-up is formidable. The Gators have five players with a batting average over .300: Kayli Kvistad .389, Amanda Lorenz .379, Nicole DeWitt .333, Aleshia Ocasio .314, and Sophia Reynoso .303.
Alabama has two: Demi Turner, just back from injury, is batting .397 and Chandler Dare .303, and neither of those are power hitters.
Florida has scored 353 runs to Alabama’s 262. The Gators have 326 runs batted in, Alabama has 239, in a season in which timely hits and hits with runners in scoring position have been few and far between. Alabama will need production from Elissa Brown, Peyton Grantham, and Reagan Dykes who have struggled in the post-season.
History: edge Alabama
Take heart fans: Alabama actually has a winning record at Florida, the Crimson Tide is 18-13 in Gainesville. The last two times (2014 and 2016) Alabama played a series there, Florida was ranked #1, and the Tide took two of three games. And then there’s this: Tide pitcher Sydney Littlejohn has never lost to Florida. And this: The Gators have scored more than one run against LIttlejohn and Alexis Osorio exactly once in seven games.
(Florida is 5-0 against Alabama in post season play, but those games were played in the World Series in Oklahoma City, not on either campus.)
Here’s hoping the recent success in Gainesville will give the Tide and, in particular, the pitching staff confidence. Alabama has won six of its last seven. Florida was shut out at home last weekend by Oklahoma State and will carry the burden of being the favorite. As the underdog, Alabama has nothing to lose and the Tide’s good luck charm, Demi Turner, is back with a vengeance. RTR.
(click here for the entire Super Regional schedule)
Game 1: Thursday 6pm CT ESPN
Game 2: Friday 6pm CT ESPN
Game 3: Saturday 4pm CT ESPN (if necessary)