The season ended for Florida softball yesterday after getting trounced by Stanford 11-2. It followed an 8-0 loss on Saturday, and in reality, it was not surprising to anyone who followed this program all season. The Gators demonstrated that they were a solid squad this season and still were only one of 32 teams to make the Regional Finals, but every time they took on a top-level squad, they looked out of the league.
And if Florida wants to look at what was ultimately missing from this year’s squad, it needs to look no further than 148 miles to their Neighbors to the West.
Florida Softball: Pitching far from perfect
There was a duality that played out yesterday with Florida and with FSU. The Seminoles dropped their first game of the day against South Carolina and had to play in a winner take all game immediately after.
Ranked third in the country, FSU found themselves in very real danger of being knocked out in the Regional round because in the second game of the day they only managed one run over seven innings.
Saving the day, however, was Kathryn Sandercock pitching a perfect game to allow FSU to survive and advance.
Florida, meanwhile, immediately allowed Stanford to load the bases out west in California before registering an out. And even though the Gators got out of the jam with just one run crossing the plate and even went into the third inning with a 2-1 lead, the pitching woes that ailed Florida softball all season long popped up one final time.
It was still just a 3-2 game heading into the 5th inning before four runs from Stanford made it 7-2, effectively making the end inevitable.
Now there were some umpiring issues, and the strike zone was questionable at times, leading to head coach Tim Walton being ejected. But this story played out too many times this season to try and gin up a narrative that poor umpiring ended Florida’s season.
Poor pitching is what ended the season short of Super Regionals for the first time since 2012.
Florida ended the year with a team batting average of .315, its highest since 2013.
However, Florida had a team ERA of 3.69, its worst pitching season ever, and it’s not even close. The only other season in Florida softball history where the Gators had a team ERA over 3.00 was in 2002 at 3.08.
Is it the pitching coach? Is it the pitchers themselves?
That’s for people better connected with the program to decide.
But the good news for the Gators is that reinforcements are coming. Florida has signed in their class of 2023 Keagan Rothrock and Ava Brown. The website Perfect Game has the duo as the top two rated pitchers in the entire country for the class of 2023.
And as FSU showcased, a team can have all the high-powered bats it wants. But at some point, a team that wants to go deep in the NCAA tournament has to have pitchers that can deliver shutdown innings.
If Rothrock and Brown are as advertised, it won’t be long before Florida is back on the mountaintop.