The Florida Gators and Georgia Bulldogs will start their three-game series in the 2016 NCAA Super Regionals on Thursday night in Gainesville. Despite playing in the same conference, this will mark the first meeting between the two highly touted softball teams.
Florida is, of course, the heavy favorite going into this series and perhaps the entire tournament as well. They are the reigning, defending, back-to-back Women's College World Series champions and looked every bit as good as advertised in the Regional Round, defeating Alabama State as well as UCF twice. The Gators outscored their opponents 24-0 and won via run-rule twice, as their high-powered offense was no doubt on display.
After getting off to a hot start, Georgia slid a little bit in April but have since rebounded after a terrific performance in the Athens Regional. The 'Dawgs went 3-1 with victories over Maine, Northwestern and Oklahoma State with their lone loss coming to the aforementioned Oklahoma State. Georgia was able to take the winner-take-all game to advance to the Super Regionals to set up this intraconference matchup in what should prove to be a highly competitive affair.
Will Florida's offensive dominance continue?
As it has been said, UF dominated their Gainesville Regional with two run-rule victories and an overall margin of victory of +24. Whether that continues against the Bulldogs is yet to be seen. UGA did well in terms of run prevention in the Regionals as they allowed just seven runs over the course of the four games they played, with five of those seven coming in one game. They pitched two shutouts and had only allowed five or more runs just seven times dating back to the start of April going into the NCAA Tournament. Lately, they have done a good job in quelling offenses, but they will certainly be tested against this dominant offense. Whether or not Florida continues their run is left to be seen, but the bats are certainly alive and kicking.
What does Tina Iosefa have for an encore?
Georgia's slugger had an incredibly impressive performance in the Athens Regional. Isoefa went 7-for-13 with a walk, a stolen base, a double, triple, and three home runs in the four games that Georgia played. Isoefa has been one of Georgia's most consistent sources of power all season long, hitting 23 homers this year with 86 runs batted in. She will likely be tasked with that responsibility again as a threat in UGA's lineup. Figuring her out, if you're a Florida pitcher, will have to be one of the top priorities.
Who will step up for Florida?
The Gators have a myriad of talented players, so the question going into this series is who will emerge? Last series it was Amanda Lorenz who picked up a few big hits and Nicole DeWitt contributed in a big way too. Will that repeat itself, or will someone else, like say, Kelsey Stewart? Stewart stole some headlines from over the weekend after her terrific heads up steal of home plate, so will her bat do the talking? She did go just 2-for-10 in the three games played, which is far from the norm for a player who, as a junior, led the conference with a batting average of .536 in 2015. Stewart can make a big impact in this series if she steps up for the Gators, and it's awfully likely if the past is any indication.