UF’s Cassidy McLellan (22) makes contact with the ball during the Gators game against Illinois at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium in Gainesville, Fla., on Sunday, February 25, 2024. (Lee Ann Anderson/WRUF)

Gators Softball To Be Tested At Judi Garman Classic

The Florida Gators softball team begins the Judi Garman Classic in Fullerton, California, on Thursday. They start the tournament with a matchup against the host school, California State Fullerton, at 8 p.m.

Schedule Heating Up

At 15-2, Gators Softball has had an incredible start to the season. But so far, they have only played one ranked opponent. Head coach Tim Walton acknowledged that the hardest part of the Gators schedule is yet to come.

The Gators will have one of their first true tests in the tournament. They play their second ranked opponent, No. 19 (USA Softball) UCLA on Friday. On Saturday, they have a rematch against Michigan, who defeated the Gators earlier in the season.

Pitching Dominance

Seventeen games into the season, Walton said he’s been able to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the team. But one question yet to be answered is how the young pitching staff will handle adversity.

The main reason Walton doesn’t have an answer to this question is because the pitching staff has been so remarkable. Led by freshmen Ava Brown, Keagan Rothrock and Olivia Miller, the Gators have only given up 12 runs all year. They have shut out opponents in 10 of their 17 games. Miller has thrown two perfect games, and Rothrock has a no-hitter.

Walton would prefer his question never getting answered, but the Gators have a tough stretch ahead. Following their five games in the Judi Garman Classic, the Gators have a three-game road series against undefeated No. 11 Alabama. The next eight games will test not only the pitching staff, but the entire Gators roster.

Looking Forward

As a young team, the Gators are constantly aiming to learn and improve their play. The Gators have had a scorching start to the season, but they cannot slow down as the difficulty of opponents ramps up. Walton stated that he is pleased with the team’s growth and performance so far.

Following the game against California State Fullerton on Thursday, the Gators take on Long Beach State at 10:30 p.m. On Friday, they have matchups against UCLA and Depaul at 5:30 and 8 p.m. They close out the tournament with a game against Michigan on Saturday at 12:30 p.m. The Gators have a week to recover before they begin SEC play at Alabama on Saturday, March 9.

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