The Florida softball team hosts South Florida on Wednesday at 7 p.m., coming off a pivotal weekend sweep of then-No. 14 Arkansas to return to .500 in SEC play.
Wednesday’s game is the second time these teams have faced each other this season. The No. 6 Gators (32-9) beat the Bulls on the road 7-1 to close out the USF Opening Weekend Invitational on Feb. 10.
USF struck first against pitcher Kelly Barnhill in that game, scoring a run in the first inning. From there, she and freshman Elizabeth Hightower, who made her collegiate debut, shut down the Bulls. They didn’t allow a hit the rest of the game and struck out a combined 15 batters.
UF’s offense hit three home runs, including a grand slam by second baseman Hannah Adams in the fourth inning to give the Gators a 5-1 lead.
Getting to know the opponent
The Bulls have gone 28-10 since the Feb. 10 game and stunned then-No. 7 Arizona with a 4-1 win on Feb. 15. They have one other win over a ranked opponent, a 7-1 win over then-No. 23 Wisconsin on March 8. USF has also won six in a row ahead of Wednesday’s game.
South Florida sits in a three-way tie for first place in the AAC with UCF, whom Florida shut out 5-0 last month, and Tulsa.
The Bulls’ pitching staff boasts the third-best ERA in the AAC (2.14) and is anchored by sophomore Georgina Corrick.
Corrick, who did not pitch in the Feb. 10 game, started in USF’s upset over Arizona and held what is currently the nation’s sixth-best offense in runs per game (7.46) to just one run in seven innings. She has a 16-2 record this season with a 1.10 ERA.
“We just got to be ready to go no matter who they pitch, and (we) faced them already one time this year … (we’re) familiar with their lineup as they are with ours,” coach Tim Walton said.
USF will need a similar performance from Corrick or senior Nicole Doyle against the Gators, as the Bulls struggle to put runs on the board. The team scores a dismal 3.44 runs per game, which is 231st in the country and, ranks 198th in batting average (.256).
Utility player AnaMarie Bruni is the only starter in the lineup with a batting average above .315 or an on-base percentage over .400. No batter has hit more than four home runs, and catcher Macy Cook is the only one to reach the 30-RBI mark.
USF’s tepid offense is a major disadvantage for the Bulls against Florida’s strong pitching staff, which ranks 14th in the nation in ERA. USF will likely have to once again face either Barnhill or Hightower, who won SEC Freshman of the Week for her shutout against Arkansas.
Follow Brendan Farrell on Twitter @Bfarrell727 and contact him at email@example.com.
Kelly Barnhill threw a complete game in Sunday's 3-1 victory over Arkansas. She allowed two hits and struck out eight batters.