PHOTO CREDIT: Alana Healy/UAA Communications

Gators Softball Looks Forward to a Promising Season

The Gators softball team opens their season 4-0 and will now take on Jacksonville on Feb. 15. Let’s go over their success and future victory predictions.

Gators Acquire National Rankings Ahead of 2022 Season

It’s the eighth consecutive season that Florida opens the year top 10 in the national rankings for both major polls. UF is No. 6 in the 2022 USA Today/NFCA DI Top 25 Preseason Coaches’ Poll and No. 5 in the 2022 ESPN.com/USA Softball Preseason Collegiate Top 25 poll. On top of that, they also received a No. 5 ranking in the D1Softball.com Top 25 Poll and ranked No. 6 in Softball America’s 2022 NCAA Preseason Top 25.

Dating back to 2007, the Gators have been nationally ranked in the top 25 of both polls for 217 consecutive weeks. They also now hold a record of 345-261 (.569) against teams in the USA Today/NFCA Top 25 and are 303-172 (.638) against programs in the ESPN.com/USA Softball Top 25.

Softball Preseason Coaches’ Poll

The Gators are predicted to finish second place this season. They picked up three first-place votes and accumulated 131 total points, while Alabama was favored first with seven first-place votes and 138 points. Following them, Arkansas earned two first-place votes and 124 points for a predicted third-place finish. Tennessee, securing one first-place vote and 103 points, was put at fourth place.

Last season, the Gators finished with a 19-5 record in conference play, which led to their ninth SEC Regular Season Championship. They were the only program in the conference to win every SEC series in 2021.

To keep their prosperity ongoing, the program is returning many players from last year’s squad. This includes NFCA All-Americans Charla Echols, Hannah Adams, and Elizabeth Hightower with the addition of 2021 transfer Skylar Wallace and six newcomers. Alongside these upperclassmen, a new star is arising — Lexie Delbrey.

Delbrey, a right-handed pitcher, competed in her first college game against Illinois State on Feb. 12. She entered the game in the seventh inning of play with a 3-0 lead and followed this with several strikeouts.

As impressive as that was, Delbrey saved her most impressive performance for their matchup with No. 16 Michigan. She conquered the Wolverines as she posted a complete-game, one-hit, shutout, which was the second time in program history that a freshman pitcher has achieved the feat against a Top 25 opponent. The last time a freshman pitcher performed with such success was on April 10, 2004, when Stacey Stevens did it against No. 18 South Carolina.

Upcoming Clash Against Jacksonville

UF’s softball team is on a roll (4-0) and they’re just starting out with the beginning-of-the-season tournaments. The Gators, now about to face Jacksonville, are confident in their play. After beating Illinois State 3-0, Kansas City 7-1, Michigan 4-0, and USF 12-0, they are no stranger to success.

As for the Jacksonville Dolphins, they are now 0-4. They already suffered tough losses to NC State (0-8) and Campbells (0-18). Along with those, Western Carolina University beat the Dolphins twice.

You can catch the Gators coming head-to-head with Jacksonville at the Debbie and Fred Pruitt Softball Complex Feb. 15 at 6 p.m. The Gators will then return home for a midweek match against the Dolphins on Feb. 16.

About Talia Baia

Talia Baia is a sophomore at the University of Florida studying journalism with a concentration in sports and media.

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