Florida Heach Coach Tim Walton chats with left fielder Amanda Lorenz at third base. | Photo: Kate Venezio/ESPN WRUF

Gators Softball set for Bubly Invitational

The No. 5/6 Gators Softball Team currently sits at 3-0, with the Bubly Invitational up next on the schedule. Though Tim Walton’s squad is only three games into 2021, there are plenty of positives, as well as areas to improve upon heading into this five-game weekend.

Early promise and areas to improve

Here are two big positives for Florida: through three games they scored 22 runs and only allowed three.

The Florida Gators Softball Team celebrates with Hannah Adams following her walk-off double against Jacksonville. (Kyle Fansler/ESPN Gainesville)

Players like the SEC Player of the Week for opening weekend, Charla Echols, walk-off provider Hannah Adams and Preseason All-SEC selection Kendyl Lindaman provide enough firepower to get the Gators going early in games. In their first three games of the season, the Gators managed to get the bases loaded in the first inning.

Gators softball head coach Tim Walton says the swings get a little bit long, and that cannot happen facing elite pitching.

Credit where credit is due. Florida’s batters have faced elite competition in the opposition circle in their young season. USF’s Georgina Corrick and Jacksonville’s Alyssa Bilodeau are some of the top pitchers in the state and country. Corrick made the shortlist for USA Softball’s College Player of the Year in the offseason and Bilodeau was the ASUN Player of the Week in their opening series with a no hitter.

Anytime that happens, limited runs can be expected.

Coach Walton wants to ensure his team do not make any changes to their swing when they get runners into scoring position. In Wednesday night’s game against Jacksonville University, the Gators loaded the bases twice, but came away empty.

Another strong suit for Florida is their pitching. Katie Chronister and Elizabeth Hightower are currently on scoreless inning streaks at or above 9.0 innings, nearing personal records for both players.

They’ll look to create those records with a busy weekend on tap.

Bubly Invitational up next

The annual Bubly Invitational welcomes two opponents seldom-played by Florida. Over the weekend, Florida will play three games against Georgia Southern and two games against Charlotte. With each team playing four or five games this weekend, it will be a good litmus test for Florida early into their season.

There is only so much to scout about the upcoming opposition. Georgia Southern’s first four games of the season met cancelations due to inclement weather. The Eagles, out of the Sun Belt, were a respectable 14-10 in a shortened 2020 season.

Charlotte enters Gainesville at 2-1, edging a close series against Appalachian State.

So, let’s look at where Florida can improve this weekend.

Fielding has not been an issue for Florida. So far, the Gators made one error over three games and allowed three runs. In fact, certain players have shined.

Cheyenne Lindsey made that spectacular catch in the first inning on Wednesday, and served as the game’s only run on Hannah Adams’s walk-off double in the bottom of the seventh inning. Walton says Lindsey’s play early this season has kept a tempo for the team.

Twenty-two runs scored, three runs allowed, one error, three wins. It is a strong start.

Look for Walton to spread some love across his lineup over this loaded weekend.

Different lineups and some fresh faces outside of the three seen so far in the pitcher’s circle should be in store for Walton.

Florida’s schedule for the weekend is as follows:

Friday (Feb. 19): Georgia Southern at 6 p.m.

Saturday (Feb. 20): Georgia Southern at 1 p.m., Charlotte at 4 p.m.

Sunday (Feb. 21): Charlotte at noon, Georgia Southern at 3 p.m.

About Kyle Fansler

Originally from Seminole in the Tampa Bay area, Kyle is a contributor for ESPN Gainesville as well as local NPR and PBS affiliate WUFT. Kyle wants to get into sports with a lofty dream of being a sports broadcaster. He was raised playing soccer and baseball while watching hockey and football, so the knowledge about various sports is fairly extensive.

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