Gator Report

Antonya English

Florida and Alabama meet this weekend to decide SEC regular season softball championship

The 2012 SEC regular season softball champion will be decided this weekend in Tuscaloosa, AL.

No. 6 Florida (43-8, 20-5 SEC) will take on No. 3 Alabama (45-5, 21-4) in a three-game series beginning tonight at 7:30 at Rhoads Stadium, and Florida coach Tim Walton said the Gators are in for a battle this weekend because they are facing arguably the most talented team in the league.

"They have a lot of multi-dimensional athletes and multi-dimensional hitters that can do a lot of things from bunt, to slap, to hit the ball out of the ball park,'' Walton said. "They hit a lot of home runs and they have an overhanging stadium, which really creates a lot of different intensity, atmosphere and noise level that a lot of players maybe haven't been used to before. They are good. We've seen a lot of film, now it's about getting in there and seeing what they do in person. But we've played them so many times, we know how good they are. They've got a lot of returning players back.''

A sweep for the Gators would solidify UF’s fourth SEC Championship in program history and a No. 1 seed heading into the 2012 SEC Tournament next week - which also will be held in Tuscaloosa at Rhoads Stadium. By taking two of the three games against Alabama, the Gators, Crimson Tide and Tennessee Volunteers would all sit tied for the regular-season title. Should the Gators lose two or more in the three-game series, UF would finish third, as Tennessee concluded its league play at 22-6.

Te Gators and Crimson Tide met a total of five times last season, most recently in two games in the 2011 Women’s College World Series on elimination Sunday, as UF rallied to defeat Alabama twice to stay alive in postseason play and advance to its second WCWS Championship series. In the regular-season match-up, the Tide took game one, 5-0, while UF followed with two-consecutive walk-off wins Saturday and Sunday – including a nine-inning victory – to take the series in Gainesville.

Walton had nothing but praise for the Crimson Tide as the Gators prepared to travel to Tuscaloosa on Thursday, but said he also has a lot of faith in his young Gator squad.

"I think they (Alabama) are a good team,'' Walton said. "I think they are potentially in a little bit better place right now than maybe we are at. I think they are a little better on paper than we are, they are a little bit deeper on paper than we are. We're just younger and we're just learning and hopefully this kind of learning experience can take us to another level.

"Do I think they can beat us all three games? Absolutely,' Walton added. Do I think we can go in there and beat them all three games? Absolutely. I think anything can happen with our team and we've proven that throughout the year. We've just got a lot ofgrowing up to do and this is one of the places that will grow you up.''

Saturday's 4 p.m. game will be televised live on ESPN2, and Sunday's game will be televised at 3 p.m. on ESPNU.

[Last modified: Friday, May 4, 2012 11:35am]

    

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