It seems like the last few years every time the new softball season starts Florida is picked by many pundits to win it all and this year is no different with the Gators setting at the top of many preseason polls. It isn’t hard to see why with their shutdown pitching staff headed by returning right handed junior Kelly Barnhill who was 26-4 last season with a 0.51 ERA with 359 strikeouts. The Gators have left handed sopohmore Katie Chronister also returning this year. She only seen limited action last year finishing 2-0 in her 19-innings pitched. I also like senior Aleshia Ocasio who went 8-2 with a 1.51 ERA in her 69.1 innings pitched last year. The team seems more interested in using her in a utility role though having had her play several different positions last year. The Gators also have right handed freshman Natalie Lugo joining this years team to add even more talent to their already strong pitching staff. Florida did lose their other staff ace from last season Delanie Gourley who finished 22-4, 0.71 ERA with 254 strikeouts.
On offense the Gators will be returning most of last years players. The only loses are outfielders, Justine McLean, who was a speedster on the bases going 18-19 in stolen bases and Chelsea Herndon. Back again this year though to put runs up on the scoreboard is power hitter Amanda Lorenz who had a .388 BA with 11 HR and 46 RBI’s last season. Kayli Kvistad also knows how to put bat to ball last season hitting for a .368 BA along with 9 HR and 53 RBI’s.
Last year Florida ended up winning the regular season SEC championship with a 20-3 record but stumbled in the SEC tournament. The Gators made it all the way to the World Series where they went up against fellow perennial winning program Oklahoma who defeated them in two straight games by scores of 7-5 and 5-4.
With all the talent still there from last years team and the Gators ability to always attract some of the nations top recruits to their program to restock it from year-to-year it looks like they have a legitimate shot to make it back again to this years World Series. Can they win it all this time around? Only time will tell.