Gators follow slugging shortstop Skylar Wallace’s lead into NCAA Super Regional

GAINESVILLE – Florida fifth-year senior Skylar Wallace is on a postseason tear at the plate with no end in sight, just when her team needed her most.

First, the All-American shortstop had to stare into an abyss she and her coach never saw coming.

Wallace searched for answers, lost confidence and even shed tears during an April slump that left the Gators without their leader entering a pivotal SEC stretch.

“No one wants to go through that,” Wallace, 24, said. “But it’s part of the game. It was meant to happen for some reason and led me to where I am now.”

Led by Wallace, the hard-charging Gators are two wins away from reaching the Women’s College World Series. Fourth-seeded UF (49-12) will host unseeded Baylor (35-20) beginning at noon Friday during one of eight best two-out-of-three NCAA Super Regionals.

After falling in NCAA Regionals in 2023, coach Tim Walton’s program seeks its 12th trip to the WCWS since ’08, with its first with a chance to push for the title in some time.

“The work ethic has changed — the off-the-field, on-your-own, unrequired work ethic,” Walton said. “That’s what it takes to become a championship-level team. It takes a special athlete to get to the next level … doing things coach didn’t ask you to do.

“This team has a lot of that.”

Wallace has gone the extra mile ever since sitting out 2021 after she transferred from Alabama.

After one of the best seasons in school history, she wanted to be even better and worked even harder, pushing to win USA Softball Player of the Year after falling short as one of three finalists in ’23.

“I just think she was trying way too hard,” Walton said.

The veteran coach and two-time national champion could sense something was amiss during the third game of a series against LSU.

During a Monday game on April 8, Wallace was 0 of 4 to finish the weekend 1 of 10 against the Tigers.

“[It] was the only time in my mind that she really was just not herself at all,” Walton said. “She started swinging at bad pitches. It wasn’t her.”

From there, things snowballed.

The harder Wallace pushed, the deeper she sank, leaving her 5 of 29 for the month.

Teammates were at a loss, too.

“It’s a deep, dark hole,” centerfielder Kendra Falby said. “You don’t want anyone to do through it. All we could do was feel for her.”

Now the Gators are following Wallace’s lead again.

She rides an 11-game hitting streak and has 16 RBI, with 4 home runs, during five postseason games. She has raised her batting average to .412 after seeing it dip to .368 on May 1.

“It was never an if, it was a when,” left fielder Korbe Otis said.

While Wallace’s recent surge has ignited the Gators, she, Otis and the entire lineup carry a sense of inevitability into Super Regionals.

Otis, a junior who transferred from Louisville, is hitting .463 to put her on pace to break Wallace’s school-record .443 set last season.

SEC Player of the Year Jocelyn Erickson, an Oklahoma transfer, is 3 RBI shy of Megan Bush’s record 81 in 2011, even if 19-year-old sophomore catcher from Phoenix is oblivious to the fact.

“I’m just trying to get as many as I possibly can,” she said.

Erickson said knocking in runs is easy with Falby, who leads UF with 84 hits, Wallace, the team leader with 85 runs and 34 steals, and Otis batting ahead of her.

“They’re always on base,” Erickson said. “And they’re freaking fast. If they’re on first base, they’ll score.”

With Reagan Walsh (team-high 16 home runs) up next followed by freshman phenom Ava Brown (13 homers), opposing pitchers rarely get a breather.

“It’s really awesome to play with,” Otis said. “It has to be fun to watch for our fans. If anything, it’s a relief. If I’m not getting it done, I know the people behind me are going to get it done.”

Wallace has led the way with a postseason performance a 180-degree turn from the end of her record-setting 2023 season.

After hitting pretty much everything to set school records for batting average and slugging percentage, she finally hit a wall to finish 2 of 13 during five postseason games, including 1 of 9 in losses.

Struggles and slumps don’t last for long with Wallace.

“I have my standards,” she said. “I’m super competitive. I never want to see myself fail and never want to see my teammates fail.”

Gainesville Super Regional

Game 1: Florida vs. Baylor

When: Friday, noon


Game 2

When: Saturday, 11 a.m.


Game 3 (if necessary)

When: Sunday, TBD


Edgar Thompson can be reached at