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Friday, March 01, 2024

Bruder plays consistently despite inconsistent jersey

No. 1 in your hearts, No. 2, No. 33, No. 13, or No. 11 in your program.

The jerseys freshman utility player Kelsey Bruder has worn so far this season read like the winning lucky-program numbers announced in between innings at Pressly Stadium.

"[Coach Tim Walton] just says, 'Your jerseys aren't in yet. Here's a medium, wear it,'" Bruder said.

The lefty, who is listed as No. 2 in the media guide, has begun to show that there is versatility not just in her number, but in her game as well.

In the Cox Communications Classic last weekend, Bruder came in against College of Charleston and earned her first college victory, pitching three scoreless and surrendering only one hit.

Walton said at the beginning of the season that Bruder and freshman Kristen Adkins would be the third and fourth pitchers - behind Nelson and Stephanie Brombacher - in the No. 7 Gators' staff.

While pitchers don't normally hit in softball, Bruder has found her way into the starting lineup as the designated player in each of the last two contests.

"I love both of them, it's really hard to say," she said when asked whether she likes pitching or hitting better. "But I think I might be a little more partial to hitting."

After struggling through her first few at-bats, Bruder recorded her first hit as a Gator on Sunday when she rocketed a double into the right-field gap, scoring a run.

"I was putting so much pressure on myself," she said of her slow start. "I had a talk with Coach, and I feel like I'm getting much better at-bats now."

Bruder, who is from Corona, Calif., and attended UC-Santa Barbara for the fall semester, has plenty of support from old friends as she adapts to the higher level of softball.

Second baseman Aja Paculba and third baseman Shaunice Harris, who is out with a torn anterior cruciate ligament, are from the same part of California as Bruder, and the three played on a travel team coached by Bruder's mom, Raleen.

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Paculba and Harris played a part in convincing Bruder to attend UF.

"Aja and Shaunice, I've played with them since I was 10. I talked to them and they said they loved it here," Bruder said.

The team's familiarity and closeness with each other is a big reason why the Gators (14-0) have enjoyed early-season success.

On Friday, UF will look to continue that success in the Aquafina Invitational, as it hosts Gardner-Webb and North Florida before facing Notre Dame on Saturday.

The teams will then be seeded based on their round-robin records and play two more games to determine a champion.

Bruder is confident that the team has already formed a strong bond and will continue to play at a high level as a result.

"We hang out on and off the field, any time anybody needs any help we're always there," she said. "The girls are amazing. I wouldn't have it any other way."

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