It seems like Florida softball never has rebuilding years they just flow steadily from year-to-year with talented teams that are always poised to win, be it winning the strong SEC conference or making deep runs into the playoffs. This years team will be no exception as they are predicted to win the SEC again. In the recent 2019 Southeastern Conference preseason coaches poll the Gators got 10 of the 13 votes first place votes to win another SEC title.
Last season Florida ended up with a 56-11 overall record going 20-4 in the conference while capturing a league leading eighth regular season title and fourth overall SEC tournament championship.
Florida did lose several players to graduation including, Aleshia Ocasio, Janell Wheaton, Nicole DeWitt and Kayli Kvistad. But head coach Tim Walton has a solid returning class along with several freshmen and transfers that joined the team that will help to keep them rolling along and winning games.
The transfer players include, two-time NFCA All-American catcher Kendyl Lindaman. Lindaman was the 2017 & 2018 Big Ten Player of the Year. The other transfer is Jade Caraway who transferred from N.C. State. Caraway led N.C. State in hits both during her freshman (72) and sophomore (41) seasons.
With the Gators it starts with great pitching and this year’s team is no different. Returning for her senior year is pitching all-star Kelly Barnhill. Last year Barnhill went 29-3 with an 1.08 ERA. Barnhill along with Aleshia Ocasio took care of the pitching duties holding opposing teams from racking up runs on the scoreboard. With Ocasio gone it will be up to returning pitchers Natalie Lugo and Katie Chronister along with incoming freshmen, Elizabeth Hightower and Danni Farley to pick up the slack and give Barnhill some help on the mound.
While Florida did lose the big bats of Nicole DeWitt and Kayli Kvistad they still have Amanda Lorenz, who hit .416 BA, 11 HRs and 61 RBIs last season to help with the offense.
Florida’s formula for winning is playing smart ball. That includes keeping the fielding errors to a minimum and strong pitching while making opposing pitchers work hard. Every year Florida is at, or near the top, for taking walks in the statistics. They also make good use of getting keys hits and the occasional long ball to score their runs.
Last year Florida made it through the College Station Regionals and Gainesville Super Regionals making it to the WCWS where they got knocked out with losses to UCLA and Oklahoma.
Florida begins its’ 2019 season at the USF Opening Weekend Invitational in Tampa against Illinois State (Feb. 8) at 4:45 p.m. with their first SEC series slated against Tennessee (March 8-10).
I look for this year’s team to take the SEC title once again and make it to the title round in the WCWS where they have a shot of bringing home the 2019 Championship title to Florida.