In just over a week, Florida softball will open its 2022 season in Tampa at the USF Tournament where it will face four different opponents in three days. The Gators are ranked No. 5 in the nation according to D1Softball’s Preseason Rankings, which trails only one SEC team: No. 2 Alabama. That said, Florida will battle a gauntlet once conference play begins as six additional SEC teams round out the top-20: No. 8 Arkansas, No. 10 Missouri, No. 17 LSU, No. 18 Tennessee, No. 19 Georgia and No. 20 Kentucky.
This marks the eighth consecutive season in which Florida ranks inside the top-10 in both major preseason polls.
Florida will return to Gainesville for its home opener against Jacksonville on Feb. 16 before it hosts four teams in the T-Mobile Tournament. The Gators will kick off conference play at home on March 12 against Mississippi State. Florida is also scheduled to face several non-conference ranked opponents including No. 6 Florida State, 12 Michigan, No. 13 Duke and No. 25 James Madison.
In addition to welcoming four incoming freshmen and a pair of eligible transfers, the Gators return 16 starters led by a pair of D1Softball Preseason All-Americans — fifth-year second baseman Hannah Adams and senior third baseman Charla Echols.
In the circle, Florida will lean heavily on right-hander Elizabeth Hightower — who earned NFCA All-American honors — and fifth-year pitcher Natalie Lugo to carry the load and deliver quality innings.