As the 2020 season approaches, lots of questions surround Florida’s softball team. One glaring question, in particular, looms hauntingly over Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium: Who will stand in the circle for the Gators?
Moving forward without the 2017 ESPY Female College Athlete of the Year Kelly Barnhill marks the first time in over 10 years (2008) that Florida has not had a returning All-American pitcher in its lineup.
While coach Tim Walton still does not have a No. 1 pitcher in mind, he is confident in the skill and depth of the pitchers he has at his disposal.
“I don’t think we have a number one (pitcher), to be honest with you,” Walton said. “We had Natalie Lugo and Rylee Trlicek probably had the two best falls...We’re just gonna go with what’s going, and (you) might see five pitchers in every game this season.”
Last year also marked the final campaigns of outfielders Alex Voss and Amanda Lorenz sporting orange and blue. The three seniors demonstrated leadership on the field and in the dugout, according to Walton. They led Florida to three straight Women’s College World Series, including last season, where it lost 15-3 to Alabama and was eliminated.
Michigan State transfer Charla Echols (third baseman) will help fill the hitting hole left by Lorenz. Walton predicts that Echols will hit more for contact than power than her predecessor did, but he sees the same fire in the Newnan, Georgia, native that he did in Lorenz.
“She has the red in her eyes that wants to kill you in the game that Amanda Lorenz had,” Walton said of the sophomore.
With all of these personnel changes, (including senior Kendyl Lindaman making the move from catcher to first base) adaptation to a new style of play will be pivotal to the Gators’ success. In recent years, Florida has been known for its strength on the mound and defensive. This season, hitting and offensive playmaking will be the focus.
Florida softball will look much different this season than in the past, but that doesn’t faze the Gators, who are eager to begin their campaign Feb. 7 in Tampa at the USF-Rawlings Invitational against Illinois State.
“(Walton) Tells us all the time, it’ll be a different type of game,” Lindaman said. “But that doesn’t mean we’re out of the game.”
Follow Payton on Twitter @petitus25 and contact her at [email protected].