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Tuesday, February 07, 2023

SEC Championship in Gator softball’s sights

The Florida softball team welcomes below-average Texas A&M Aggies into town with chance to win a share of the SEC regular season championship

Florida softball looks to clinch a share of the SEC Championship this weekend against Texas A&M
Florida softball looks to clinch a share of the SEC Championship this weekend against Texas A&M

The No. 4 Florida softball team looks to defend their home field one last time before the 2021 postseason this weekend against the Texas A&M Aggies. 

If Florida (37-8, 16-5) sweeps the Aggies, it takes home a share of the regular-season SEC crown.

The Gators come off a unique series against Missouri. After a 2-1 victory in game one, UF lost 10-2 in the second game of the series. 

Going into the third game, Florida knew they needed a win or else their SEC title hopes would be dashed. 

Hannah “Clutch” Adams lived up to her team-bestowed nickname, as she launched a three-run homer in the seventh inning to seize the lead. 

"Every single weekend, it's a grind," the second baseman said in an interview with The D1 Softball Podcast.  

“We just have to make sure that we focus one game at a time and not get too ahead of ourselves,” Adams said. “Just focus on Friday’s game to start."

Going into Friday’s game, Florida won 11 of the last 12 duels with the Aggies, including a victory in the 2017 WCWS.

Texas A&M (31-17, 8-13) is far from its previous glory days. However, the Aggies fought hard against quality SEC opponents and still pose a threat to the Gators' conference reign.

The Gators, led by head coach Tim Walton, captured seven SEC Regular Season Championships since 2007. 

Meanwhile, No. 8 Arkansas (40-8, 19-5) became the first SEC team besides Alabama or Florida to win the prestigious conference title since 2007. The Razorbacks clinched their share of their program’s first-ever SEC title in their final regular-season game against LSU on May 3rd.

The sunflower-wearing squad will continue to rely on junior Elizabeth Hightower and her stellar 1.5 ERA on the mound, as she gets the starting nod on Friday and Sunday. Gainesville native Katie Chronister continues her role as a closer, and senior Natalie Lugo, who owns a 13-2 record, will surely start at the plate too, likely on Saturday.

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One big question for the series- will the Aggies dare to pitch to third baseman Charla Echols? 

Echols powered an explosive 29 home runs while striking out only twice this season. Opposing teams seem content to walk her, even amidst her spot in the lineup between Adams and Kendyl Lindaman. 

It falls on Texas A&M do-it-all star pitcher and outfielder Makinzy Herzog to manage all these stud swingers. Herzog will have batting help from star Haley Lee, a USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year Top 25 Finalist. Lee smacked 22 homers on the year. 

The Gators have their opportunity to claim SEC dominance once again; will they be in sync to pull off their third conference sweep of the season?

The Gators’ quest for a share of the crown starts Friday at 6 p.m. and continues Saturday at 4 p.m.. Both games will be broadcast live on SEC Network+, and Sunday’s noon game will be live on SEC Network. 

Contact Julianna Reichenbach at julianna0117@gmail.com and follow her on Twitter @julianna_reich


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