The defending National Champion Florida Gators softball team officially kicked off their season this weekend and they did so in dominating fashion.
Florida went 5-0 in the USF tournament this weekend and in doing so they beat No. 8 Michigan 2-1 and came from behind to beat a good USF team 10-5 and in total scored 46 runs while allowing only 6 runs the entire tournament.
Tim Walton has truly built the Gators softball program into a powerhouse. He doesn’t rebuild, he simply reloads from year-to-year and everyone got a great look at that this weekend.
This year GatorCountry.com is going to do something different and after each weekend series we are going to bring you five things we learned from the weekend and, you guessed it, this is the first one of what we hope to be an exciting year.
1.) The amount of talent of this roster is absolutely crazy, top to bottom. Florida has girls sitting the bench that would start for just about any other team in the country, as four freshmen saw significant amounts of playing time this weekend for a team that lost only two players from it’s championship team.
2.) That all starts in the circle as two of the Gators three pitchers are returners from last year’s team in Delanie Gourley and Lauren Haeger, but it was freshman Aleshia Ocasio who stole the show this weekend by dominating Michigan on Saturday and then getting the win and getting Florida out of trouble on Sunday against USF. This weekend Ocasio was 2-0 in 12.2 innings pitched and gave up no earned runs.
3.) Kirsti Merritt stole the show on Sunday at the dish with three home runs and nine RBI’s while batting.545 at the plate in the two hole. Merritt also made several good plays in center field to back up her work at the plate.
4.) Teams are refusing to pitch to Lauren Haeger this year and this weekend she drew six base on balls. With Haeger drawing so many walks this year the pressure will be on Bailey Castro and Taylore Fuller to deliver behind her. Fuller hit. 500 this weekend but Castro only hit .308 which is 12th on the team after five games.
5.) The question mark coming into the season was how would Haeger do as the ace of the staff and this weekend she answered that question by going 2-0 with a complete game, while striking out 13 of the 25 batters she faced. Haeger didn’t allow a walk and only gave up one run this entire weekend.
Florida will get back on the field on Wednesday night against Jacksonville, a team that the Gators defeated 9-0 on Sunday afternoon.