Gators’ season, WCWS hopes hinge on winner-take-all game against Baylor

GAINESVILLE — The Florida softball team’s 12-game winning streak carried it to the cusp of a trip to the WCWS.

The Gators (50-13) now have to bounce back from their first loss in a month, a 5-2 decision Saturday against Baylor during Game 2 of the NCAA Super Regionals.

“I don’t even remember what it was like it’s been so long,” star shortstop Skylar Wallace said.

Coach Tim Walton, vying for his 12th trip to Oklahoma City, is confident his players will respond.

“We’ve done it all year,” he said. “This has not been an easy year. Yeah, we won 50 games. But there’s plenty of times team had the opportunity to roll over and die — they didn’t.

“They just always found a way.”

UF answered a humbling 13-2 no-show April 24 at home to Florida State by run-ruling rival Georgia 9-1 two days later in Athens. An 11-6 loss the next day to the Bulldogs was the Gators’ last defeat until Baylor got the best of them.

Baylor (36-22) rode a stellar pitching performance from RyLee Crandall and power-hitting first baseman Shaylon Govan’s bat to within a game of their first WCWS trip since 2017.

After losing Game 1 4-2 Friday, the unseeded Bears believed they could keep up with the No. 4 Gators.

“A lot of people see us as the underdog, but we don’t see ourselves as that” said Govan, who set the tone with a 3-run home run in the top of the first inning.

Crandall (17-8) kept the Gators guessing with a variety of pitches and speeds to hold UF to just 5 hit. The sophomore from New Mexico herself threw the kitchen sink at Walton’s explosive lineup.

“Everything, up, down, left, right, fast, slow — you have to,” Crandall said.

Wallace was the only Gator to solve Crandall’s deception, continuing her postseason tear with a 3-of-3 day featuring an RBI single in the fifth inning to score center fielder Kendra Falby and cut the lead to 4-2.

“This team has a lot left in the tank,” Wallace said. “I think we got a little shook. We got away from who we are.”

Designated hitter Regan Walsh’s solo home run to open the top of the second inning was the only other hit by a UF starter; pinch hitter Baylie Goddard started the bottom of the fifth with a single after stepping in for struggling freshman Mia Williams.

Meanwhile, left fielder Korbe Otis, who is hitting .463, was 0 of 2. SEC Player of the Year Jocelyn Erickson, who entered with an SEC-leading 79 RBI, struck out once and grounded out twice with runners on base as UF produced its fewest runs since a 2-1 win May 2 against No. 8 Texas A&M.

“We’ve been an offensive team all year,” Walton said. “We scored 6 runs in two games … it’s not enough.”

The Gators will also need a better day from pitcher Keegan Rothrock (29-7). Walton replaced her with fellow freshman Ava Brown three batters in the game after Govan’s 3-run shot deep over the center-field fence.

But Walton’s teams historically rise to occasion when facing elimination in Super Regionals.

The Gators have won their past four Game 3s during Super Regionals — 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2022 — and are 5-1 overall under the 51-year-old coach.

Wallace said the key Sunday will be to play with freedom and confidence earned over months of preparation and 63 games that one loss does not erase.

“What, 10 months now we’ve playing together and working every single day together? Those relationships build,” she said. “Just dive into those relationships. Trust that the work’s there. Trust you know what you’re doing.

“Just play softball, get after it, get dirty.”

Edgar Thompson can be reached at

Gainesville Super Regional

Game 3: Florida vs. Baylor (if necessary)

When: Sunday, 2 p.m.