The No. 1 ranked Florida Gators softball team will get its season underway on Friday night when they travel to the campus of South Florida in Tampa.
The Gators will participate in the USF Wilson-Demarini tournament for the sixth time in the past seven years and the tournament has been very friendly to Florida. The Gators are 24-1 all-time in the USF tournament, but Florida will take on some good competition this weekend.
Joining Florida in Tampa will be Illinois State, No. 2 Michigan, Virginia Tech and the host team South Florida.
Here’s the schedule for this weekend’s game.
#1 Florida vs. Illinois State on Friday at 6:45 P.M
#1 Florida vs. No. 2 Michigan on Saturday at 11:45 A.M
#1 Florida vs. Virginia Tech on Sunday at 1:30 P.M
#1 Florida vs. USF on Saturday at 4:00 P.M
That’s a look at this weekend’s games, but let’s dig a little deeper into this weekend’s opponents in our scouting report.
Scouting the Illinois State Redbirds
Illinois State comes into this year by being picked to finish fifth in the Missouri Valley conference, and had just two players on the All-Conference preseason team.
The Redbirds are hoping to rebound from a bad 2015 season that had Illinois State finish with a 25-31 record, but they do return five starters from last year.
Jordan de los Reyes is the Redbirds leading returning power hitter as last year she hit 18 home runs and drove in 47 RBI’s. De los Reyes has hit 29 home runs in her career, which is fifth best in school history.
Annie Heineman doesn’t have the power that de los Reyes has but she hit a team best .356 last year and had 11 stolen bases. Heineman led the team in on-base percentage as well.
Florida owns a 4-2 all-time record against the Redbirds and the Gators defeated Illinois State last year by a score of 4-1.
Scouting the Michigan Wolverines
Michigan enters the year as the No. 2 ranked team in the country after falling to Florida three games to two in the WCWS Championship series last year.
The Wolverines lost four out of five games to Florida last year, but they return seven starters from last year. Three of Michigan’s starters are up for the USA player of the year and they are second baseman Sierra Romero, pitcher Megan Betsa and left fielder Kelly Christner. Romero is one of the best hitters in the country and last year she drove in 83 runs that was second in the country. Betsa had a 31-5 record last year in the circle and will be the ACE of this Wolverines pitching staff.
Scouting Virginia Tech Hokies
Virginia Tech enters the season by being predicted to finish sixth in the ACC after finishing seventh last season. The Hokies are a very young team as 15 of the 21 players on the roster are either freshmen or sophomores. Virginia Tech will be lead in the circle by senior Maggie Tyler who was 15-14 last year with a 3.17 ERA in 41 appearances.
Florida is 5-0 all-time against Virginia Tech but the two schools haven’t played since 2008 in the WCWS.
Scouting USF Bulls
Last year was a down year for South Florida as they missed the NCAA tournament after two straight years of NCAA tournament appearances. This year they will be led in the circle by senior Erica Nunn who is a lefty and posted 10 wins and a 2.18 ERA last season. South Florida will likely go with a three-man rotation this year.
At the plate the Bulls are led by Lee Ann Spivey who had 10 home runs last year while also hitting .315 during her career in Tampa.
Florida holds a 42-15 all-time record against the Bulls and that includes last year’s 2-0 record against South Florida.
Stay tuned to GatorCountry.com all weekend for updates on the Florida Gators softball team.