The No. 3 ranked Florida Gators (30-3, 3-3) softball team has faced a very tough and grueling schedule so far this year and that included back-to-back top 5 series match-ups to start SEC play.
This weekend the Gators will face an unranked opponent, but Florida will be on the road as they travel to Starkville, Mississippi to take on Mississippi State (24-8, 4-5) — a team that Florida has great luck against recently.
Florida has won four of its last five against Mississippi State and are 12-7 all-time in Starkville and the Gators are hoping that trend continues as Florida is looking to climb back into the SEC championship race.
The Gators currently sit in a tie for third place and are 3 games back of Auburn and 2 games back of LSU with the Tigers holding the tiebreaker over Florida.
How the teams have fared in conference play:
Florida had two tough weekends to start conference play against No. 1 LSU and No. 5 Alabama and the Gators came out with a 3-3 record against arguably the two toughest teams they will face all year long.
Mississippi State is 4-5 so far in the conference after winning 1-of-3 against Georgia and Ole Miss. The Bulldogs did, however, take 2 out of 3 against a tough Texas A&M ball club at home in the second weekend of the conference.
Overall Florida comes in with the top RPI in the country while Mississippi State is 27th in the country.
In the batter’s box:
The Gators are really struggling at the plate as of late and now have a batting average of .304 which is way down from where the team started conference play at. The Gators also didn’t hit a home run at all last weekend which is odd for a team that has 46 on the season.
The one solid for Florida has been Kelsey Stewart, who is hitting .398 on the year, but after that Tim Walton has been playing around with his lineup as Bailey Castro is struggling with only a .314 batting average and has struck out 17 times this year.
Mississippi State comes in with a .341 batting average, has hit 33 home run this year and nine triples, which is a high number.
Amanda Ivy has been the Bulldogs best hitter this year with a .386 batting average and she has a .441 on base percentage.
In the circle:
Florida rebounded nicely last weekend by only giving up earned runs against a good Alabama offense and that lowered the ERA down to 1.42 for the team on the year.
Lauren Haeger continues to keep her perfect record in tact at 13-0 but she now has a 1.16 ERA in 72.2 innings pitched.
I would expect Aleshia Ocasio and her 1.22 ERA to get the ball on Friday against the Bulldgos.
Mississippi State has a four man pitching staff that have all pitched double digit innings and as a team the Bulldogs have a 3.34 ERA including 4 complete games.
The Bulldogs have struck out 188 batters in 213.2 innings pitched and a lot of that has to do with Alexis Silkwood who has struck out a team high 140 batters in 124 innings pitched. Silkwood is 17-6 on the year.
Players to watch:
For Florida: Florida needs the old Lauren Haeger to return at the plate as she’s hitting .337 on the year and has 9 home runs but none in conference play and that kept her RBI numbers down as she has 34 on the year. Look for Haeger to have a better weekend.
It wouldn’t be players to watch unless I named Kelsey Stewart who is leading the charge for Florida a with a .398 batting average and 43 hits that have led to 33 runs scored and 13 stolen bases.
For Mississippi State: The Bulldogs power hitter is Julia Echois who has six on the year but only as 21 RBI’s and the Gators have been giving up some long balls as of late so Florida must limit her damage.
Loryn Nichols is a perfect 23-23 in stolen bases opportunities so the Gators must limit her from getting on base but she has a nice .380 batting average this season.
This weekend should be a good one for the Gators on the diamond so be sure to follow along with us all weekend long. Here’s what the schedule looks like.
Friday at 6:30 P.M. on ESPN3
Saturday at 2:00 P.M. on ESPN3
Sunday at 12:00 P.M. on ESPN3