The Gators return to Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium Wednesday for another go-around against UCF.
Florida fell short against the Knights Mar. 24, when it controlled the game until UCF snagged three runs in the seventh inning. The Gators now crave revenge.
“I hope we respond with a little bit of emotion, little bit of physicality,” head Coach Tim Walton said.
The Gators stand tall at No. 5 in national rankings while the Knights trail behind at No. 23. The team also edges UCF in batting average and ERA.
“This week, on paper, will be the biggest test of our season,” Walton said.
He recognized the challenge for the Gators facing a strong team as the Knights performed well lately.
But one advantage Florida claims is powerhouse junior Charla Echols. The third basemen opened up both games Saturday with a home run and a stark hit to outer left field, respectively.
“Wherever Charla goes, we go,” Walton said.
The junior earned a place on the Preseason All-SEC Team in January and consistently proves her nomination. She clinched five home runs and 13 RBIs during the last five games to round out a staggering .462 batting average.
The Gators lead 21-5 in all games played against the Knights, and they have never dropped back-to-back games in the series. UCF enters the game on a four-win streak in the season, as it sealed the deal against Eastern Carolina.
Florida comes off a 5-2 victory against Western Kentucky and a 2-5 defeat against Softball Canada Saturday, with the Sunday rematch against the Hilltoppers canceled due to weather.
Walton didn’t consider the game against Softball Canada as a loss, however.
Though Canada got in more runs than Florida, the matchup was cut short due to weather. . Florida performed well offensively and swung the bat, Walton said.
Like Echols, sophomore Baylee Goddard is a player on everyone’s radar.
“She matches the Tim Walton and Florida softball’s mentality,” Walton said. “She’s competitive. She’s tough. She’s gritty.”
The right outfielder is a hit-or-miss batter, but when she hits, it’s strong, Walton said. They’re working on her offensive skills and see improvements on her hitting.
The game will stream on SEC+ and broadcast on ESPN 98.1 FM and 850AM WRUF.
Contact Faith Buckley at email@example.com and follow her on Twitter @_faithbuckley
Faith Buckley is a first-year journalism student at UF and The Alligator's swimming and diving beat writer. She is specializing in sports media to one day hopefully work as an NHL commentator.