UF softball tries to rebound from losing streak

No. 5 University of Florida Gators (30-7, 7-6) senior left fielder Kelsey Bruder called a team meeting Tuesday night. At its conclusion, the softball team determined that even after six straight losses there is nothing to get worked up about.

“We really figured out that there is not much of a problem,” Bruder said. “We still have the same chemistry. We’re still the same talented players. We just need to pick up the pieces and put them back together.”

The Gators have the opportunity to redeem themselves this weekend in a three-game home series against the University of Arkansas Razorbacks (10-28, 1-15).

One piece to the puzzle will see more of the field this weekend. Senior catcher Tiffany DeFelice returned to action last weekend against Kentucky. DeFelice had not played since March 20, when she re-aggravated her left hand, which she broke last year.

DeFelice went 2-for-6 at the plate in Lexington. She figures to get more at-bats but said that the coaching staff is gradually getting her back into form. For the time being, freshman Brittany Schutte has stepped in for the senior leader.

DeFelice does not see a difference with Schutte behind the plate.

“Schutte is a great catcher,” DeFelice said. “She has a cannon for an arm. I think she really knows what she is doing back there, her stepping in for me I don’t think you miss a beat.”

Over the past six games, there has been a dip in the batting average and huge increase in the earned run average. The Gators hit a combined .239, well below their .341 clip for the year.

Bruder feels that the Gators are not having smart at-bats that make the pitcher work.

“Offensively, we are working on trying to be aggressive, ahead of the count and early in the count and also shortening up on two strikes,” Bruder said. “We really need to cut down on the strikeouts. We need to make them play catch.”

Senior first baseman Megan Bush realizes that although this is the longest losing streak that the five seniors on the team have had in their careers, it is not the end of their season.

“Our hopes are up right now. We are right where we should be and ready to get back on that field and practice again,” Bush said. “The silver lining is that it happened now and not two months from now. We got to see our weaknesses and our strengths, something we haven’t really seen before.”

Even though freshman pitcher Hannah Rodgers (16-5, 2.02) has hit a wall the last four outings, DeFelice does not foresee any recent struggles impacting the productive freshman.

“Hannah has been doing a great job. It is tough to be thrown into the No. 1 role as a freshman,” DeFelice said. “I think she has handled it with class. Her best asset is her mental game, she doesn’t let much affect her.”

Bush has one goal in mind concerning the matchup versus the Razorbacks.

“We really want to just redeem ourselves and show that we are not down and we are not broken and still the same team that we have been,” Bush said.

One thing is for certain for the Gators. Although DeFelice and the team have not met their standards this year, there is time to fulfill their postseason aspirations.

“I think there is definitely more room to meet expectations. There is always room to grow, and I think I have some growing to do,” DeFelice said. “My goal is to get back to the College World Series and any way we can do that I am ready.”

Game one starts Friday at 5 p.m. at the Univ. of Fla. Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium. Game two first pitch is Saturday at 4 p.m. on following the Orange and Blue spring football game. The rubber match will start at 1 p.m. on Sunday.

Gator Country reporter Adam Pincus can be reached at adam@gatorcountry.com. You can also follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/adamDpincus.