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Gators reach softball Super Regionals for 15th time under Tim Walton

GAINESVILLE — UF sophomore Jocelyn Erickson left Oklahoma for a chance to play catcher and win another championship.

If coach Tim Walton can capture his third national title — and first since 2015 — Erickson’s decision will loom even larger.

The 19-year-old slugger’s 2-run home run in the first inning proved to be enough during a 9-1 rout of South Alabama Sunday at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium. Two innings later, Erickson ignited a 7-run third with an RBI single, giving her a team-leading 78 on the season — two shy of Megan Bush’s school record set in 2011.

The Gators also defeated South Alabama 9-1 on Saturday after prevailing 6-0 over Florida Gulf Coast on Friday.

“I’m thankful every day that she’s a Gator,” Walton said of Erickson.

UF catcher Jocelyn Erickson is met by teammates at home plater after her 2-run homer gave the Gators a 2-0 lead during a 9-1 win against South Alabama May 19 at Katie Seashole Pressly Softball Stadium in Gainesville. (UF's University Athletic Association Communications/Molly Kaiser)
UF catcher Jocelyn Erickson is met by teammates at home plater after her 2-run homer gave the Gators a 2-0 lead during a 9-1 win against South Alabama May 19 at Katie Seashole Pressly Softball Stadium in Gainesville. (UF’s University Athletic Association Communications/Molly Kaiser)

The No. 4 Gators (49-12) will host unseeded Baylor after the Bears (35-20) won 4-3 at No. 13 Louisiana. Dates and times are yet to be determined.

The series will mark Walton’s 15th Super Regional appearance since his 2006 arrival. While it never gets old, it was anything but a sure thing after a 13-2 home loss April to Florida State.

“I told them we were on the road for Regionals,” Walton said.

The Gators responded with 11 straight wins behind an explosive offense that has eased the pressure on a pair of freshman pitchers.  Ace Keagan Rothrock and No. 2 starter Ava Brown (16-5) combined to limit South Alabama (34-20-1) to 4 hits.

“If I’m pitching, I’m feeling good,” Walton said. “I don’t have to worry about being perfect. When this offense goes, it really goes.”

Erickson, a freshman outfielder at outfielder at Oklahoma, switched positions to earn SEC Player of the Year honors a season after the award went to shortstop Skylar Wallace, who is 12 of 16 with 16 RBI during six postseason games.

In February, Erickson knew she’d made the right decision.

“From the beginning of the season I was telling everyone in the locker room we were going to the [College] World Series,” she said. “That’s the plan.”

Seminoles also advance

No. 15 seed and host Florida State reached the Super Regionals with a 10-4 victory on Sunday evening over Auburn, which had knocked out UCF at 3 a.m. Sunday with a 12-inning 2-1 victory.

Edgar Thompson can be reached at moc.lenitnesodnalro@nospmohtge

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