The fifth-ranked Florida softball team (38-7, 12-3 SEC) is back on the road to take on No. 19 Mississippi State (33-12, 6-9 SEC) in a three-game series beginning Friday at 7 p.m. The Gators are 33-19 all-time against the Bulldogs, sweeping them in their last series in April 2017 at home. Florida leads the SEC standings and Mississippi State sits in 10th place with over two weeks left until the conference tournament beginning May 9.
Tim Walton’s team heads into the weekend with a four-game winning streak including a sweep of 12th ranked South Carolina and a 16-run margin of victory against Florida A&M. The National Fastpitch Coaches Association announced Hannah Adams as a candidate for the Schutt Sports/NFCA Division I Freshman of the Year award Thursday. Adams had an RBI versus the Rattlers Wednesday night.
Kelly Barnhill (19-1) earned her fourth SEC Pitcher of the Week award and ranks third all-time in conference history with nine SEC Pitcher of the Week awards. The junior pitcher had 21 strikeouts and allowed two runs in 14 innings versus the Gamecocks. Barnhill leads the nation with five no-hitters, helping the Gators lead the nation with 25 shutouts this season.
The Gators opened the series against the Bulldogs last season similarly to their previous game against Florida A&M. The 16-run difference tied the seventh largest margin of victory in UF history. Despite the Bulldogs’ SEC record, Walton sees every conference game as important with the final stretch of the season looming.
Starting pitcher Emily Williams (5-0) was in the circle for the Bulldogs 3-1 win against the Memphis Tigers on April 17. Beforehand, the Bulldogs won two of three versus state rivals Ole Miss. Mississippi State and Ole Miss wore teal uniforms in support of the Bulldogs’ Alex Wilcox who is battling ovarian cancer. Mia Davidson is the Co-Freshman of the Week in the SEC and leads Mississippi State in batting average (.426), hits (60) and RBI (39). She is also a top 25 candidate for the Schutt Sports/NFCA Division I Freshman of the Year award. With 24 wins combined, Holly Ward and Cassady Knudsen lead the Bulldogs from the circle. Ward leads the team in ERA (1.43) and saves (4).
The Bulldogs will have to deal with the Gators’ patience and eye at the plate. Florida leads the nation in walks with 236 so far this season. Mississippi State has recorded 16 shutouts, which ranks as the second-most in program history.