The Florida softball team faces No. 4 Florida State (38-7) on Wednesday, the first game of a brutal stretch of its schedule where it plays four games in four days against top-five opponents. The Gators (36-9) are coming off a sweep of Texas A&M and are on a seven-game winning streak.
Gators have big night at NPF Draft, win SEC honors
There have been plenty of individual honors for UF in the past couple of days.
Pitcher Kelly Barnhill was selected with the first overall pick of the National Pro Fastpitch College Draft by the Chicago Bandits, while teammate Amanda Lorenz was picked second by the USSSA Pride.
It was the first time that the first two picks were from the same school since 2015. Fittingly, Barnhill and Lorenz were regarded by FloSoftball as the No. 1 and No. 2 recruits coming out of high school.
“I’m just thankful that we get to be representatives of the Gators, and we get to be one and two for the University of Florida,” Lorenz said.
Third baseman Hannah Sipos also earned SEC Player of the Week. Sipos, who struggled at the plate this season, exploded against Texas A&M. She hit her first career home run in the first game of the series and hit 7 for 10 with three RBIs this weekend.
“It just shows you, again, she’s not doing anything different,” coach Tim Walton said. “It wasn’t anything at all that we did before the game or after the game. It’s really about confidence.”
Florida facing Florida State at the right time
Arguably the lowest point this season for the Gators was their 2-0 loss at home to Florida State on April 3.
Florida was coming off three straight SEC series losses to No. 8 Tennessee, No. 9 LSU and No. 22 Ole Miss, and the loss to its in-state rival was its third loss in a row.
UF hasn’t lost since and has seen offensive improvement as well. Florida has scored eight runs three times in its seven-game winning streak and scored 20 runs in the three-game series against the Aggies, the most it has scored in an SEC series all season.
The offense hasn’t needed to score a lot because the Gators have pitched three shutouts in their winning streak and have allowed three or fewer runs six times in that span.
While UF comes into this matchup playing some of its best softball this season, the same can’t be said for the Seminoles.
Florida State has lost four of six games since beating the Gators, including two straight ACC series to North Carolina and Louisville.
Still, the Seminoles are poised to give Florida’s bats trouble again. Pitcher Meghan King, who was selected with the 11th overall pick in the draft by the Cleveland Comets, is one of the best pitchers in the country. The senior has a 1.69 ERA this season with a 20-5 record and seven shutouts.
Producing runs against top-10 teams has been a problem for the Gators. UF has scored just 20 runs in its 11 games against teams currently in the top 10. The offense is the primary reason that Florida has a 4-7 record in those games. The pitching staff has allowed 3.73 runs per game against those teams and has only given up more than four runs three times.
“It’s always fun to play somebody when you’re playing well, but I’d much rather be playing well at the end of the season than playing well at the beginning of the season,” Walton said. “I like struggles because struggles tells you kind of who somebody really is.”
Follow Brendan Farrell on Twitter @Bfarrell727 and contact him at email@example.com.
Amanda Lorenz was picked by the USSSA Pride Monday with the second overall pick in the National Pro Fastpitch College Draft.