Heading into its upcoming 2016 campaign, Florida’s softball team will rely on an abundance of experienced players in its infield. As UF attempts to win its third consecutive national championship, its veteran infield will need to play a meaningful role. Here’s who to look for:
1. Kelsey Stewart, senior
Stewart was one of the Gators’ most productive offensive players last season, just like she has been throughout her career at Florida.
An NFCA First Team All-American and the 2015 Southeastern Conference Player of the Year, Stewart boasts a career .417 batting average and .476 on-base percentage — both the highest in program history.
In 2015, Stewart posted a team-best .435 batting average among players with more than 100 at bats and led the Gators in several other major categories, compiling a team-leading 101 hits, 71 runs and 11 triples.
This marked only the third time a player has reached the 100-hit mark in a single season. Similarly, Michelle Moultrie had 101 hits in 2011, while Stewart set the single-season record with 102 hits in 2014.
Further adding to her accomplishments last season were a pair of five-RBI games in the span of a week — one at Mississippi State on March 28 and the other on April 4 against South Carolina.
Stewart also put together a career-best 22-game hitting streak en route to reaching base in 63 of the 67 games she started, making her one of the most feared hitters in Florida’s lineup.
2. Aubree Munro, senior
Florida’s leader behind the plate, Munro started 51 of her 57 games at catcher last season, with the Gators recording a 45-6 record during those contests.
Her impact on the team cannot be understated.
Although she struggled offensively — hitting just .225 with 20 hits, 2 home runs and 15 RBI — she was at her best when the stakes were highest.
In May and June, she batted .310 with a .444 on base percentage.
Munro also hit .278 during the NCAA Tournament, including .348 with runners in scoring position.
Defensively, however, Munro was impressive.
In 2015, Munro gunned down eight of a potential 18 base-stealers, good enough for the highest percentage of runners thrown out in a season in UF history.
Additionally, she did not commit an error in 354 chances, anchoring a Florida defense that only committed 33 errors all season and ranked first in the nation with a .981 team fielding percentage.
With the departure of standout pitcher Lauren Haeger, Munro’s veteran leadership will be essential, as she will be tasked with handling a pitching staff highlighted by stellar freshman Kelly Barnhill.
3. Taylor Schwarz, senior
Like Munro, Schwarz played a contributing role in Florida’s top-ranked defense in 2015.
Seeing most of her playing time at first base, she only committed two errors in 218 chances, notching a .991 fielding percentage in 59 appearances.
A career .265 hitter with a .412 on-base percentage, Schwarz tied a personal best with four doubles and was a seamless 4-for-4 on stolen bases last season.
She also was reliable in big opportunities, hitting a solid .294 with runners in scoring position.
In the Gators’ championship-clinching game against Michigan on June 3, Schwartz hit a 2-RBI single in the bottom of the first inning that gave Florida a 3-0 lead on its way to a 4-1 victory.