Florida coach Tim Walton and his Gators used the extra time gained after the quick exit from last week's SEC tournament to hone their skills.

Gators used extra time to work on their game before NCAAs

By Kevin Brockway Staff writer
Friday, May 19, 2017 10:02 AM

For the fifth time since 2005, Florida is the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Division I softball tournament.

With that seed comes lofty expectations. As host Florida begins regional play this afternoon against Florida A&M at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium, coach Tim Walton is confident the stellar play throughout the regular season will carry over into the postseason.

“There's a lot to be said about doing something like that,” Walton said. “That tells you about your whole body of work. That tells you about what you did all season long from February all the way until May.”

Florida (50-6) is coming off another quick exit in the SEC Tournament, falling 2-0 to Ole Miss last week. The Gators are 4-3 in their last seven games and have lost their last three games to power conference opponents, losing 3-1 in 11 innings at Florida State on May 3 and 5-1 at Tennessee on April 30 in the finale of a three-game series.

“We've had the ups and downs, a couple of losses,” Florida sophomore pitcher Kelly Barnhill said. “But we've learned from every loss and sometimes the losses are more helpful than the wins, to help you figure out what we need to work on going forward.”

In the Ole Miss loss, the Gators managed just two hits. A costly error by third baseman Aleshia Ocasio helped lead to both Ole Miss runs in the first inning. The silver lining to the early exit was that the Gators had extra time to work on themselves before regional play.

“We've been there til the end, we've been there through the middle, we've exited out the first day so there's some advantages,” Walton said. “You get a chance to just concentrate on you. You can control the environment in a practice setting versus the game setting. We spent a lot of time on all the things that we do, our defense. We were able to rest a little bit with our arms, just try to give the arms a little bit of a break.”

Florida sophomore outfielder Amanda Lorenz said the extra practice time has been productive.

“We've been really focused,” Lorenz said. “It's been a really good couple of days of work. I don't think we've had this many consecutive days of being honed in on our goal and it's been really fun. Everybody is doing their job really well and getting better each and every day.”

Walton said it will be important for both Lorenz and junior Kayli Kvistad to get on base to help recharge UF's offense. The Gators combined for just two runs in the three recent losses.

“Pressure is a privilege,” said Lorenz, who is batting ,373 with a team-high nine home runs. “Me and Kayli take pride in doing that and I think we're capable of it.”

The double-elimination Gainesville Regional also features fourth-seed Florida A&M (23-30-1), second seed Oklahoma State (35-23) and third seed FIU (45-13). Walton could see a familiar face over the weekend. Oklahoma State coach Kenny Gajewski was an assistant coach at UF from 2012-15 and was a former college baseball teammate of Walton's at Oklahoma.

“We've hoisted a lot of trophies together so there's a lot of admiration and respect,” Walton said. “Proud of him. His son and my son will be riding their scooter around the field together. I love his son Preston. But this weekend there won't be love for anyone in the other dugout, that's for sure.”

Contact Kevin Brockway at 352-374-5054 or kevin.brockway@gvillesun.com. Also check out Brockway's blog at Gatorsports.com.




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