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Sunday, January 17, 2021
Softball team pic
Softball team pic

The cancellation of all spring sports included 23-4 Florida softball. With bad losses a distant memory and convincing wins in the immediate rearview, it seemed the Gators had growing momentum to make 2020 a magical season. 

Then coronavirus happened. The world changed and sports stopped. 

So, softball beat writers Payton Titus and Graham Marsh give their perspective on the season, or part of a season, that was for the Gators. 

This year sort of felt like a mixed bag.

More often than not, as implied by its 23-4 record, Florida delivered. A team that was supposed to struggle under the weight that had been carried on Kelly Barnhill’s shoulders managed to surprise everyone.

The Gators, named preseason No. 5 in the SEC, weren’t supposed to go toe-to-toe with No. 1 UCLA in extra innings. They weren’t supposed to topple three ranked opponents that same weekend in California either. Yet, they did.

But there were games like the 11-2 walloping at the hands of then-No. 1 Michigan opening weekend. And the series against the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns that slipped through their fingers.

This team kept Graham and me on our toes, that’s for sure. But they were so fun to watch. Aside from its lineup — led by junior Hannah Adams, senior Kendyl Lindaman and sophomore Charla Echols (in that formulaic order) — this team was working to find its identity, specifically in the circle. 

While every person on the team is extremely competitive and has a switch they flip on when it’s game time, they all seemed so patient with and understanding of each other’s development.

Before coronavirus pandemonium ensued, I wanted — and fully expected — to follow them to Oklahoma City. How far they would’ve made it, I’m not sure, but I was more than ready to watch from the press box.

While they grew as a program and softball players, I grew as a writer and a reporter. My very first beat. Although it was cut short, I’m still so grateful.

How fitting. 

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When Florida baseball’s streaks ended, Florida softball’s extended.

Both hardball teams wearing orange and blue played in-state rival Florida State in the second week of March. While baseball dropped its first game to the Seminoles in 12 contests, softball beat FSU that Wednesday to make it two in a row against the garnet and gold. 

Little did either team know, but that was the last time they would play for the season.  

Shortly after, all spring sports were canceled for the year due to the outbreak of COVID-19. Coach Tim Walton’s group now can only wonder what could have been. 

Like any softball season, there was good and bad through UF’s 27 games it got to actually play. 

But what is most unfortunate for the Gators is, before the cancellation, it had been nothing but good. The Gators had just beaten FSU to extend their win streak to six. And the last two losses were by a combined three runs to the No. 9 and No. 1 teams in the nation. 

On a positive note, Florida’s six seniors, who all contribute to this team’s on-field production, have an opportunity to come back next season. 

Will this team be the exact same? Of course not. 

Incoming freshmen will shake up the roster and these seniors don’t have to stay. But assuming they do, the Gators will have almost all of the same contributors commence the 2021 season with their most recent game being a decisive victory against a bitter rival. 

How fitting. 

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