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History was made on Thursday and Friday at the 2016 Gainesville Super Regional, just not the kind of history that No. 1-ranked Florida Gators softball had any intention of making this season.
The two-time defending champions were swept out of the 2016 NCAA Tournament by the No. 16 Georgia Bulldogs, which entered Florida’s home base of Pressly Softball Stadium and made quick work of the best team in the nation.
The Bulldogs shut out the Gators 3-0 on Thursday and came from behind with a two-run walk-off homer in the bottom of the seventh on Friday to earn a 3-2 victory.
Florida became the first No. 1 overall seed in tournament history to be swept out of its own Super Regional, the first to lose the opening game of its Super Regional, and the second to not reach the Women’s College World Series.
These are not just disappointing records, they’re borderline embarrassing for Florida team that entered Super Regional play with a 56-5 record and had simply annihilated teams over the last two NCAA Tournaments and in the 2016 Gainesville Regional, where it swept the visitors by a combined 24-0 over three games last week.
Winning three straight national titles is nearly impossible in collegiate softball; if it was easy, UF would not have been the first team in the last three decades to do it (should it have completed the mission).
Still, no one expects a team as good as Florida to be that punchless in its opener and ultimately take a defeat in that manner, especially to a school that is such a rival to the athletic program as a whole. The hard-hitting Gators got on base but got turned around with runners in scoring position. Two combined runs over two games is never going to get it done.
Departing the Gators are Taylore Fuller, Kirsti Merritt, Aubree Munro, Taylor Schwarz and Kelsey Stewart. It’s a group that played a major role in Florida’s back-to-back titles and departs with a 229-35 overall record, making them the second-winningest class in the history of the program (.867).
Florida has no choice but to move on. The program will survive and continue to thrive under head coach Tim Walton, who has exceeded expectations since Gators softball’s difficult episode a few years ago. That does not make the hurt of Friday night any less, though, because this episode will sting for quite some time.