Sooner, then Gator: Florida's Jocelyn Erickson returns to the WCWS with a new team and a bigger role

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Jocelyn Erickson might have more friends than anyone at the Women’s College World Series.

Florida’s standout catcher and the Southeastern Conference Player of the Year spent last season at Oklahoma, where she started 32 games as a freshman and helped the Sooners win a third consecutive national championship.

Now, though, she will try to prevent the first four-peat in the history of the college softball.

Erickson and the fourth-seeded Gators (51-13) open WCWS play Thursday night against No. 5 seed Oklahoma State (49-10) in Oklahoma City. It’s a rematch from February, a game the Cowgirls won 3-0 in Gainesville.

Thanks partly to that shutout, the Gators insist they won’t get caught looking ahead. But nobody would blame Erickson for keeping an eye on that other team from Oklahoma that’s playing in the opposite side of the bracket.

After all, the Sooners were an integral part of Erickson’s life — and they’ll be linked forever. They spent countless hours practicing, meeting, traveling, chatting, playing, winning and celebrating. They even have matching championship rings.

But Erickson chose to leave Oklahoma behind last July and transfer to Florida. The Arizona native wanted to be a full-time catcher and didn’t want to wait another year behind five-year starter Kinzie Hansen.

“I just felt like I had more to offer and more to accomplish and more to give to a team,” Erickson said. “I’m so glad for my experiences there, and they definitely shaped me into who I am today.”

Erickson has flourished in her new surroundings.

The left-hander is hitting .383 with 13 home runs and 80 RBIs, tying the program’s single-season mark set by Megan Bush in 2011.

“I’m just trying to get as many as I possibly can,” Erickson said while acknowledging she had no idea she was closing in on the school record.

Erickson has been equally impressive behind the plate. She’s played a key role in the development of freshmen pitchers Keagan Rothrock and Ava Brown while allowing just one passed ball and six stolen bases.

Erickson has thrown out 13 of 19 runners trying to swipe bags, earning a spot on the SEC’s all-defensive team. It was six steals too many, she said.

“She’s fiery. She’s intense,” coach Tim Walton said. “Fiery is an understatement.”

Erickson and roommate Korbe Otis, a junior who spent the last two seasons at Louisville, have emerged as two of the best transfers in the country. Otis leads the team with a .449 average as well as a .584 on-base percentage. Together, they've scored nearly a quarter of Florida's 499 runs this season.

“I think Coach Walton definitely hit the nail on the head with that matchup,” Otis said. “Us being able to thrive in a program like this just being who we are is exactly what I think we both wanted going into the transfer portal.”

Coaches and teammates call Erickson the ultimate self-starter, someone who gets teammates on the practice field even during off days.

“That says a lot about her character,” Otis said.

Seeking a bigger role was the main reason she bailed on the defending national champs. She hit .337 as a freshman with the Sooners, with seven home runs and 32 RBIs. She played in four of the team’s five WCWS games.

She returns wearing orange and blue, searching for another ring and potentially playing spoiler against her former coaches and teammates.

“I’m just happy here,” Erickson said. “I felt like we really started to mesh at the beginning of the season ... and felt the start of a national championship team."


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