After dropping nine of its last 13 games and finishing under .500 in conference play — eighth in the SEC — Florida will not host an NCAA Regional for first time since 2004.
Instead, the Gators will travel across the country to Palo Alto, California, to compete in the Stanford Regional. The Cardinal earned the No. 9 overall seed and will host Florida in addition to a pair of California teams: Loyola Marymount and Long Beach State. The double-elimination tournament will kick off Friday with the Gators set to face Loyola Marymount at 6 p.m. ET. Long Beach State will take on Stanford at 9 p.m. ET and the two winners will face off Saturday at 5 p.m. ET.
The loser’s bracket will take place Saturday night before the regional final unfolds Sunday at 4 p.m. ET.
The Cardinal finished 40-13 overall, 14-10 in conference play — fourth in the Pac-12 — and 19-3 at home.
In the Pac-12 Tournament, Stanford knocked off Oregon before losing a 1-0 nail-biter to No. 2 UCLA in the semifinals. Although Florida and Stanford haven’t met in over a decade, the Gators faced both UCLA and Oregon in February and lost by a combined margin of 18-0.
The Cardinal boast the 10th lowest team ERA in the nation (1.63) and are led by freshman right-hander NiJaree Canady. The Kansas native leads the country with a 0.49 ERA after she dealt five shutout innings and struck out eight UCLA batters in the conference semis.
Despite losing three of their last five games, the Lions punched their ticket into the NCAA Tournament by winning the West Coast Conference with a 12-3 record. Loyola Marymount finished 27-20 overall and lost to Stanford 6-1 in their season opener.
Florida is 4-0 against LMU dating back to their first meeting in 2005. In 2018, the Gators run-ruled the Lions 13-0 on a neutral field.
Long Beach State
The Sharks clinched an NCAA Tournament berth after they closed the regular season on an 8-game winning streak capture the Big West Conference title. Long Beach State finished 31-21 overall and 21-6 in conference play.
Since 2005, the Gators are 4-1 against the Sharks in contests all set on California soil. In 2017, Florida run-ruled Long Beach State 17-0 on a neutral site.
After she led the conference in slugging percentage (1.036) and total bases (142) and finished top-3 in home runs (19), runs scored (69), stolen bases (30), and walks (49), Florida shortstop Skylar Wallace won the 2023 SEC Player of the Year award.
The Gators will lean heavily on Wallace’s contributions at the plate as well as the hitting and fielding of third baseman Charla Echols. Echols led the SEC in RBIs (63) en route to earning All-SEC First Team honors in addition to All-SEC Defensive Team honors.
Despite leading the SEC in team batting average (.319), Florida struggled in the circle with the second-worst team ERA (3.54) in the conference. Nevertheless, the Gators will rely on an experienced pitching staff that includes southpaw Rylee Trlicek and right-handers Elizabeth Hightower and Lexie Delbrey. Trlicek is 13-5 with three saves, while Hightower is 15-12 and Delbrey is 7-2. All three pitchers have an ERA just north of 3.00, but none of Florida’s pitchers managed to maintain a sub-4.00 ERA in SEC play.
The winner of the regional tournament will advance to the best-of-three super regionals against the winner of the Duke Regional, which includes Charlotte, Campbell and George Mason. The series is scheduled to begin on May 25.