The South is known for many things: sweet tea and hospitality, thick accents and even thicker humidity.  But the region is also known for its rabid support of college athletics, or at least some of them.  When it comes to college football, fans south of the Mason-Dixon line are borderline obnoxious; their jeering sometimes overwhelms their cheering.  But this fanatical fandom seems to be, for no obvious reason, restrained to the fall and winter.

Springtime in Gainesville entertains a team with national relevance, a star at the key position and an up-and-coming coach take the field to little or no revelry.  The fastpitch softball team, fresh off a thrilling 2-1 series win over No. 3 SEC rival Alabama, has been one of the best programs in the nation the past few years.  Its recent performances, three consecutive appearances in the College World Series and National Runner-Up last season, warrant more support.

These games are absolutely riveting.  In the second game of this past weekend’s rivalry, senior Kelsey Bruder hit a walk-off three run homerun to even the series.  And the next day, she hit another walkoff single to bring in the final run for the 3-2 win in extra innings, completing the comeback series victory.

Late game dramatics are not only possible between endzones, they can, and often do, occur on the softball diamond.  The sport is on the rise, providing pitching duels as well as slugfests.  The players are as attractive as they are athletic, providing a combination of attributes that would seem perfect for the Gator Nation’s fanatical tendencies, or tendencies of any Southern fanbase.

This kind of program should be well known and celebrated.  Take a visit out west and softball jerseys are in window displays next to football jerseys, holding a prominent place in the public’s eye.  Take a visit to the University of Alabama or the University of Georgia and that is not the case.  Even in the spring football takes precedence over any other sport actually playing.  With more support the conference will continue to grow and will put up stiffer competition against the Pac 12, the current giant of the sport.  But even though this conference as a whole is young –its inception was in 1996- it is on the rise.  It is just a matter of time before one of the SEC’s 12 member institutions wins a national championship; that is certain. But what remains to be seen is if anyone will jump on the bandwagon before it is too full, or if they will be left stranded once this program takes off.

By admin

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