After winning six straight exhibitions last fall, Florida will kick off the 2023 season in less than a month.
The Gators will travel to Tampa for the USF Invitational set to begin on Feb. 10. They’ll face four opponents — Boston University, Boston College, Illinois State and USF — in just a three-day span.
Florida will return to Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium on Feb. 15 for its home opener against Jacksonville.
The Gators will host four teams for the T-Mobile Tournament before they travel to Palm Springs, Calif., for the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic. Florida is scheduled to face four different opponents in three days including UCLA — who ended the Gators’ season last year in the Women’s College World Series.
Following its west-coast trip, Florida will host Rutgers, Louisiana and Mercer in the Bubly Invitational before SEC play begins on March 17.
The Gators will host Mizzou ahead of back-to-back road series against Arkansas and South Carolina. Florida will return to the Sunshine State to welcome Auburn and Georgia before they head to Knoxville to take on the Lady Vols. The Gators will wrap up the regular season with a pair of contests against rival Florida State in addition to two more conference series — versus Ole Miss and at Kentucky.
Fayetteville, Ark., will play host to the 2023 SEC Tournament, which is scheduled for May 9-13.
The Gators will return 16 players — including three pitchers — from last year’s roster. Despite the new faces, Florida lost several key pieces from last season including second baseman Hannah Adams, center fielder Cheyenne Lindsey, and right-hander Natalie Lugo.
Right-hander Elizabeth Hightower – who boasts a 42-16 record in 70 career starts — will enter her fifth season at UF as a graduate student. Southpaw Rylee Trlicek will return for her senior season, while right-hander Lexie Delbrey will look to build on her 15-win freshman season.
In the field, the Gators will return seven starters including a trio that made the 2023 USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year Top-50 Watch List: graduate student third baseman Charla Echols, redshirt junior shortstop Skylar Wallace, and sophomore outfielder Kendra Falby.
Florida will welcome four newcomers — two freshmen California natives and a pair of graduate-student transfers.
Infielder Kaila Pollard and Olivia Gigante — who pitches and plays first base — will enter their freshmen seasons. Tennessee transfer Samantha Bender will give Florida another right-handed arm to throw in the circle, while Texas A&M-Corpus Christi transfer Pal Egan expects to fill a utility role.
Egan received recognition after the Bakersfield, Calif., native cracked a pair of preseason top-100 softball player lists.
Florida head coach Tim Walton – who became the second fastest head coach in history to reach 1,000 career NCAA Division I softball victories last May — will enter his 18th season. The Gators are No. 5 in the D1Softball Preseason Top-25 and are the top-ranked SEC team. Alabama, Arkansas and Georgia cracked the top-10, while five additional SEC teams enter the season ranked.