After winning their doubleheader on Wednesday, the Gator softball team will begin the Aquafina Invitational beginning Friday.
The Gators (10-1) will take on Maryland (2-7), Illinois State (4-6), Iowa State (6-4) and Georgia Southern (7-2) in a six-game home tournament.
While the Gators stumbled last weekend against Louisiana, their confidence has slowly built up to this point.
Playing well against a tough Oakland team, allowing only two runs while scoring 16 total of their own, Florida is back in their rhythm.
This was most apparent int he pitching. The Florida pitching staff struggled against Louisiana. Pitchers Kelly Barnhill and Aleshia Ocasio allowed a combined seven hits and walked four more. During the doubleheader, UF allowed five total hits.
Barnhill especially looked strong as she recorded a season-high 15 strikeouts in game one against the Golden Grizzlies. She now has two 10+ strikeout games on the season, including a no-hitter against UNF on Feb 14.
Sophomore pitcher Katie Chronister currently has a scoreless inning streak of 10.0 innings this season. She has not allowed a run in 12.2 innings, extending back to her freshman year.
Florida’s building in confidence in their pitching staff will help them against the strong offensive teams they will face this weekend.
Friday, the Gators will play their second doubleheader oft he week against Maryland at 4:30 p.m. and Illinois State at 7.
This will be the first of two games Florida will play against Maryland. So far the Terps have had a disappointing season.
With a combined batting average of .201 and a team ERA of 3.67 — the highest total of the teams in the tournament — Maryland will be playing as the underdog early.
Illinois State, on the other hand, is a familiar opponent for Florida. The two teams met Feb. 9 for the first game of the USF Wilson DeMarini Tournament in Tampa for Florida’s opening game of the season.
While Florida struggled early to get runs, the floodgates eventually opened as the Gators would go on to win 9-0 against the Redbirds.
Illinois State is more poised than when Florida last saw them. The Redbirds are coming off of an impressive 11-hit performance in their 6-2 win over North Dakota State Feb. 18.
Florida’s pitching staff will be challenged early, and fans are eager to see how their team responds.