PENSACOLA, Fla. – The University of West Florida softball team turned in another dominant performance on Sunday against West Georgia, winning the program’s fourth Gulf South Conference Championship and its first since 2005. With the tournament title, UWF clinches a berth in the NCAA Tournament, which begins on Thursday.
Kelsey Sweatt, Teala Howard, and Jacquelynne Poling were each named to the GSC All-Tournament Team, with Sweatt earning the nod as the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player. Sweatt threw 14.0 total innings across three games, including the final two in Sunday’s championship. She allowed just one run over the weekend, good for a 0.50 ERA, while striking out 18 batters and walking just 2.
Howard led all players in the Tournament with a .571 batting average, four runs, and eight hits, while tying Poling with a tournament-best 5 RBIs. Poling added a double and three RBIs on Sunday to go along with the other double, home run, and two runs driven in that she recorded over the weekend.
UWF got outstanding performances from the pitching staff on Sunday, as Grace Gilbert and Sweatt combined for three strikeouts, no walks, and just one run allowed in the 4-1 victory. Gilbert earned her GSC-best 19th win of the season after throwing five shutout innings with two strikeouts and 10 groundouts against UWG. Sweatt picked up her second save of the season, throwing the final two frames and allowing only two hits.
The momentum was going UWF’s way from the start, as the Argonauts ended the first inning with a 6-4-3 double play. Gilbert and West Georgia starter Morgan Goree traded zeroes for the first two innings, and Gilbert used some great pitching to get out of a jam in the third and keep things scoreless.
After Gilbert got UWG’s Hannah Scarbrough and Raven Smith to each ground out with two runners on and get out of the third inning, the top of West Florida’s order struck in the bottom half. Rachel Wright, who led all players in the tournament with five runs scored, and Teala Howard started the inning with singles, and Rhiannon Sassman loaded the bases with a walk.
That was when Poling belted a double down the left field line to give West Florida the 3-0 lead, which would be more than enough run support for Gilbert. The Argonauts got an RBI double from Callan Taylor just two innings later, stretching the team’s lead to 4-0 after five innings.
Gilbert retired eight of the last nine batters she faced, and Sweatt entered in the sixth to hold on to the lead. The sixth inning ended with a diving stop from Gilbert, now playing second base, and Sweatt struck out UWG’s Madison Slappey to end the game and give UWF the win.
UWF ended the weekend with the best batting average (.362), best ERA (0.88), most hits (34), most runs (28), and most strikeouts in the circle (24) among all teams in the tournament.
West Florida improved to 47-8 with the win, giving the Argonauts their most wins in a season since 2005, when the team went 60-6.
UWF, which was a 1-seed in the latest NCAA South Region Rankings, will see its fate for the NCAA Tournament on Monday at 9 a.m. Fans can follow the selection show at NCAA.com.
***Story provided by the UWF Athletic Communications Department