Photo by Brian Fox / ChompTalk.com

The Florida softball team kicks off its 2020 season this Friday in Tampa as they compete in the USF-Rawlings Invitational. The Gators will play five different teams in just three days. On Friday, they face Illinois State. Saturday calls for a double-header, featuring a morning game against Fresno State and an afternoon game against 17th ranked Michigan. On Sunday afternoon, Florida plays Georgia State and USF. The home opener will be held Tuesday, February 11, against Team USA as they prepare for the 2020 Olympics this summer in Tokyo.

Florida opens the season ranked 9th in the nation after concluding last season in Oklahoma City and finishing ranked 7th.

The nation’s top ranked team and the only SEC team ranked ahead of Florida to begin the season is Alabama. The Crimson Tide ended Florida’s season last year when they defeated the Gators in the Women’s College World Series. The Gators are coming off back-to-back SEC championships and have reached the Women’s College World Series in 10 of the past 12 seasons. To say expectations for Florida softball are high this year would not be an understatement.

With that said, Florida lost several notable seniors from last season. Among the seniors lost are outfielder Amanda Lorenz and pitcher Kelly Barnhill. Lorenz hit lead off for the Gators last season, leading the team in batting average (.422) and runs scored (57). Barnhill was Florida’s clear ace last season, and the Gators leaned on her heavily down the stretch. She went 34-14 with a 1.61 ERA and a 0.80 WHIP.

On the bright side, Florida returns seven of its nine starters from last season and welcomes six freshmen. The Gators boast an experienced lineup led by five seniors. Look for senior catcher Kendyl Lindaman to bring some power to the lineup. Lindaman led the team with 15 home runs and 54 RBIs last year.

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As far as pitching goes, Florida will need to fill the void following Kelly Barnhill’s farewell. The Gators will likely lean on Natalie Lugo and Elizabeth Hightower in the circle this year. The two combined for over 130 innings pitched and a 12-4 record last season. Florida welcomes freshman Rylee Trlicek, whom hopes to give the pitching staff a boost. Trlicek was named to the 2019 U-19 USA Women’s National Team and won 2019 Texas Softball Gatorade Player of the Year.

Head coach, Tim Walton, enters his 15th season at Florida with a jaw-dropping 771-167 career record.

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