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Tuesday, February 27, 2024
UF shortstop Skylar Wallace rounds the bases in the Gators' 8-7 win against the Georgia Bulldogs Saturday, April 15, 2023.
UF shortstop Skylar Wallace rounds the bases in the Gators' 8-7 win against the Georgia Bulldogs Saturday, April 15, 2023.

After falling in the regional round of the NCAA tournament last season, the Florida Gators softball team comes into the spring season with a new pitching staff, a talented freshman class and multiple returning position players. The team is ranked No. 18 by the NCAA DI Softball Preseason Rankings.

Florida finished the 2023 season 38-22 and placed eighth in the SEC. Despite two wins in the Palo Alto Regional, the Gators had a tough 11-2 loss to the No. 9 Stanford Cardinal May 21. This sent the Gators home earlier than expected.

Head coach Tim Walton is entering his 19th season with the Gators, and he was recognized as a member of the 2024 National Fastpitch Coaches Association Hall of Fame.

This year, Walton’s team features a well-balanced mix of returning standouts and talented newcomers. Redshirt senior shortstop Skylar Wallace returns after winning the 2023 SEC Player of the Year award.

Wallace held a .447 batting average at the plate, setting multiple UF single-season records. She ended the season with 55 RBIs, seven doubles, eight triples and 19 home runs. She also recorded 51 walks and 30 stolen bases.

The Gators will have 11 new additions to the 2024 program, including four transfers and seven freshmen. Leading the transfer class are sophomore catcher Jocelyn Erickson and junior outfielder Korbe Otis.

Ava Brown, the 2023 Gatorade Best Female Athlete, and Cassidy McLellan, the 2023 PGF All-American, are among the seven freshmen expected to make an impact this upcoming season.

Contributing to the new pitching staff is the talented freshman duo of Keagan Rothrock and Brown.

Rothrock preceded Brown as the 2022 National Gatorade Softball Player of the Year and is a three-time Indiana Gatorade Player of the Year.

Additional pitchers include Olivia Miller and graduate transfer Mackenzie Wooten, who are both freshmen.

The Gators will come face-to-face in several competitive matchups this season. Conference play will begin March 8 and run through May 5.

The schedule features an early matchup against No. 14 Alabama in March. The Crimson Tide advanced to the 2023 Women’s College World Series, but were eliminated in two games. Then, Florida will host No.15 LSU. 

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Despite a 13-11 SEC record, LSU had a disappointing end to their 2023 season. A 9-8 upset loss against Louisiana-Lafayette in Game 7 of the Baton Rouge Regional ended the Tigers’ season.

Later in the season, a major series includes a rematch against the No. 6 Georgia Bulldogs. The Bulldogs finished last year second in the SEC with a 16-7 conference record, but fell to Florida State in the Super Regional round of the NCAA Tournament. Florida went 2-1 against the Bulldogs during conference play.

The Gators will open their 2024 campaign in Tampa against the Oregon State Beavers at the USF-Rawlings Invitational Friday at 5:30 p.m. They will play four more games throughout the weekend, including Michigan and Illinois State on Saturday, and Bethune Cookman and USF on Sunday.

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Hailey Hurst

Hailey Hurst is a second-year journalism major with a focus in sports media and a sports reporter for The Alligator. In her free time, she enjoys going to the beach and cheering for Miami sports teams.

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