The Florida Gators softball program will has been one of the most consistent in the country for the better part of the last decade. The Gators advanced to the Women’s College World Series for the ninth time in eleven years in 2018, the best mark in the nation over that time frame, and will look to add to it in 2019.
Despite returning two SEC Player of the Year recipients (Kelly Barnhill 2017, Amanda Lorenz 2018), the team lost a ton of production.
Ah, but Florida doesn’t rebuild. The Gators simply reload. While many questioned who would fill the void left behind by the second winningest class in program history, head coach Tim Walton had a plan.
The Gators have reloaded with a combination of the #3 ranked recruiting class (FloSoftball.com) and a pair of immediate-impact transfers.
The following is our preview of the 2019 Gators Softball program.
FLORIDA GATORS (2018: 56-11)
P/UT Aleshia Ocasio, C Janelle Wheaton, 1B Kayli Kvistad, 3B Nicole DeWitt
As we mentioned earlier, this group is the second winningest class in Florida history. Aleshia Ocasio was the perfect compliment to Kelly Barnhill in the circle and proved her value at the plate as well. Janelle Wheaton was truly a leader behind the dish for the Gators while Kvistad and DeWitt were consistent throughout their careers with Florida.
P Kelly Barnhill, OF Amanda Lorenz, SS Sophia Reynoso, OF Jordan Matthews, 2B Hannah Adams
With fifteen players returning from last year’s team, the Gators are flush with experienced talent at most positions on the field. The Gators have a solid tandem up the middle with Reynoso, one of the slickest fielders in the nation, and Adams- who wasn’t credited for a single error in her freshman season. Florida also returns defending SEC Player of the Year, Amanda Lorenz, who hit a whopping .416 while slugging at a .753 clip.
Kelly Barnhill anchors the pitching staff. Barnhill is one of the most decorated athletes in UF athletics history. Some of those accolades include winning an ESPY in 2017 in addition to being named the National Player of the Year. Despite giving up 21 home runs in 2018, Barnhill finished the season with a 1.08 ERA in 41 appearances.
Behind Barnhill however, there is some questions, but we will address that later.
C Kendyl Lindaman (transfer), OF Jade Caraway (transfer), 3B Hannah Sipos (freshman), P Danni Farley (freshman), P Elizabeth Hightower (freshman), Asst. Coach Mike Bosch
Walton addressed several needs via the transfer route during the off-season, landing Lindaman and Caraway who will immediately improve an offense that at times last year could be stagnant. Lindaman is a power bat that will likely see action behind Lorenz in the lineup. Lindaman was a 2018 second team All-American and cranked out 40 homers in two years at Minnesota.
Caraway is also a junior, and while she doesn’t possess the power of Lindaman, she will likely find a home at the top of the Gators lineup. As a sophomore at NC State, Caraway successfully stole 13 bases without getting caught. As a freshman, Caraway set the program record with a .389 average.
Freshman INF Hannah Sipos is expected to start at the hot corner according to Walton. Sipos is a slick fielder that can also swing the bat for power if needed. Walton also spoke of Farley and Hightower getting significant action this fall.
New assistant coach Mike Bosch joined the Gators after the departure of beloved assistant Jen Rocha. Bosch is an analytics driven pitching coach who has “stats for everything,” according to Walton. Kelly Barnhill is stated that she is excited to work with Bosch and the analytical approach.
The Gators enter 2019 with a team that should make a deep run into postseason. A lot will be dependent on the production from the #2 starter behind Barnhill. Sophomore Natalie Lugo is likely to fill the role, but junior Katie Chronister as well as Farley and Hightower will likely have opportunities as well.
The depth of the team is impressive. No matter how you slice it, there will be several big bats on the bench at any point. The only question mark heading into the season, defensively, is who will play at first base and how will that affect the defensive alignment. In fall scrimmages, Lorenz and freshman Amanda Beane played the position most frequently. Lorenz makes sense, if she’s adjusted well, as the Gators will need to make room for a star studded outfield that includes, Caraway, Jordan Matthews, Danielle Romanello, Jamie Hoover (also an infielder) and Alex Voss, who Walton spoke highly of at Media Day on Tuesday. NOTE: Beane played shortstop in high school.
- Caraway LF
- Lorenz 1B
- Lindaman C
- Matthews RF
- Romanello DP
- Sipos 3B
- Reynoso SS
- Beane 1B
- Adams 2B
- Voss CF
The Gators open the season on Friday in Tampa as part of the USF Opening Weekend Tournament. Florida will play five games in three days against top notch opponents such as Michigan and Arizona.