One of the most notable factors about Florida’s softball team this season is its deep roster.

In addition to nine juniors and seniors, Florida has 10 underclassmen who are at the ready in game-time situations.

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As the No. 2 Gators (8-1) go into a doubleheader against the Oakland Golden Grizzlies (2-2) today starting 4 p.m. at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium, freshman Natalie Lugo and sophomore Katie Chronister are expected to get some time in the circle.

Lugo, a right-handed pitcher from West Covina, California, made her collegiate debut on Feb. 10 in Florida’s matchup against Georgia State.

In two innings of work, she recorded two strikeouts on 22 pitches.

Chronister, a left-handed pitcher and Gainesville native, has more experience coming off a successful first year with the Gators in 2017.

Last season, she finished with a 2.21 ERA in 19 innings of work. She also threw 15 strikeouts in seven appearances.

Upperclassmen pitchers Kelly Barnhill and Aleshia Ocasio have set a strong standard in the bullpen for the Gators.

Coach Tim Walton notices the gap between the No. 1 and 2 pitchers and the No. 3 and 4 pitchers, saying the disparity this year is larger than it has been in the past.

But that isn’t deterring his confidence in Chronister and Lugo’s pitching abilities for today’s games against the Golden Grizzlies.

“I’m looking forward to them going out and getting the chance to compete here at home,” he said. “To go out and just show me and the rest of the club that they have been working really hard in the weight room and in the bullpen.”

Walton said the underclassmen have been working on their pitch arsenal, specifically with their location and velocity.

When Chronister and Lugo were recruited by the Gators, Walton said he was looking for more depth in the bullpen.

With only three official pitchers on the roster (Ocasio being listed as a utility player), it’s important now more than ever that they’re managed well enough to tackle a long season.

“The only thing I worry about is that we become a little bit one- or two-dimensional,” Walton said. “That’s the one thing you’ll try to see us do a better job of is getting them more innings.”  

With the Gators using Chronister and Lugo more as they move deeper into the season, this will give the team more opportunities to create a tougher environment.

“They got to get a chance to step their game up,” Walton said. “And we’re gonna give it to them.”

Follow Mari Faiello on Twitter @faiello_mari and contact her at mfaiello@alligator.org.

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