After a strong weekend, No. 4 Gators Softball prepares for Jacksonville University.
The trip to Tampa was strictly business for the Gators softball team as they outscored their opponents 41-2 through three games in the USF tournament. It is the hottest start to a season for the Gators in program history.
Making A Bold Statement
On Friday, the fourth-ranked Gators opened their season with an 11-2 victory over Boston University.
The Terriers are predicted to finish first in the Patriot League after coming off a successful 2022 season. However, this didn’t phase the Gators as they scored eight of their runs in the first two innings.
Saturday featured a doubleheader.
The dominance continued in every fashion for the Gators with a quick 9-0 run rule of the Boston College Eagles. They once again scored all of their runs early with nine in the first two innings. It set the tone for the rest of the game denying the Eagles any attempt to rally.
In game two, the Gators sent a strong message to the softball world with its biggest offensive performance of the weekend.
They demolished the Illinois State Redbirds in a football-like finish of 21-0. The firepower of the Gators’ lineup lived up to its preseason hype with three homeruns (2 grand slams).
On Sunday, the Gators were scheduled to finish the weekend against their host, the USF Bulls, who are winless against the Gators since 2012. However, due to poor weather conditions, the game has been postponed to a later date.
The 21-0 win over Illinois State is tied for the second-largest margin of victory in program history.
– North Florida | +22 | 22-0 | May 5, 2010
– Ball State | +21 | 21-0 | March 12, 2011 pic.twitter.com/of5zhvCVhC
— Gators Softball (@GatorsSB) February 11, 2023
Living Up to the Gator Standard
Gators softball placed high among every preseason ranking, and they’re living up to that standard.
Fresh off a trip to the College World Series in Oklahoma City, the Gators carried an overall batting average of .314 at the plate. It was the highest batting average by a UF squad throughout a full season since the 2016 team posted a .312 average. Florida set a program record with 132 stolen bases.
Though just three games in, the Gators have a team average of .406, slugging a whopping .667. Florida has an on-base percentage of. 582 with big home runs from Reagan Walsh and Olivia Gigante.
If the trend continues, this could be quite the historic season for Florida softball.
.@ReaganWalsh17 & @olivia_gigante both hit GRAND SLAMS in the Gators win over Illinois State‼️
The last time that happened for UF was against Mercer in 2015 when Brianna Little and Janell Wheaton achieved the feat. #GoGators pic.twitter.com/SivkuZecIl
— Gators Softball (@GatorsSB) February 12, 2023
Along with an explosive offense, the Gators have one of the country’s more talented bullpens with fifth-year right-handed pitcher Elizabeth Hightower leading the way.
With a team ERA of 2.39 and an opponent’s batting average of just .209 last season, Florida has only gotten stronger in 2023. They added depth to the circle with two additions on the roster: Samantha Bender, a right-handed grad transfer from Tennessee, and Olivia Gigante, a freshman first baseman/right-handed pitcher.
Up Next: Jacksonville University
The Gators softball squad looks to utilize these offensive and defensive weapons in a home-and-home series against Jacksonville University, starting Tuesday. Jacksonville will start at home at 6 p.m.
After a disappointing 2022 season with a 15-31 record, the Dolphins are looking for consistency coming into the UF series with a 3-1 record. With wins over Syracuse, Georgetown, and Furman, the offense seems very top-heavy.
A majority of Jacksonville’s production is coming from lead-off infielder Madison Reynolds (.385 average) and two-hole hitter Alison Carter (.250 average).
The Dolphins have their best chance against the Gators from the circle. The pitching staff holds a 2.25 ERA and an opponent batting average of .206 to begin the season.
However, eight different Gator hitters have a batting average of .333 or better. Unless Jacksonville can fend off hitters like lead-off star Sam Roe (.571 average) and Raegan Walsh who already has two home runs and a slugging percentage of 1.125, the Gators should come out of this series continuing to see success.
Florida boasts a 24-1 record all-time against the Dolphins, with a 22-game win streak.