Stewart, Gators ready to make home debut


Coach Tim Walton's Gators are 6-0 so far this season.

Brad McClenny/Staff Photographer
Published: Friday, February 15, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, February 15, 2013 at 12:16 a.m.

Kelsey Stewart's college career is off to a blazing start.

Facts

Lipton Invitational schedule

FRIDAY
UNC Wilmington vs. Western Carolina, 9 a.m.
Western Carolina vs. Charleston Southern, 11:15 a.m.
Charleston Southern vs. Savannah State, 1:30 p.m.
Florida vs. UNC Wilmington, 4 p.m. On Radio: 104.9 FM
Florida vs. Savannah State, 6:15 p.m. On Radio: 104.9 FM
SATURDAY
Western Carolina vs. Charleston Southern, 9:30 a.m.
Florida vs. Western Carolina, Noon On Radio: 104.9 FM
Florida vs. Savannah State, 2:15 p.m. On Radio: 104.9 FM
Charleston Southern vs. UNC Wilmington, 4:30 p.m.
UNC Wilmington vs. Savannah State, 6:45 p.m.
SUNDAY
Western Carolina vs. Savannah State, 9:30 a.m.
Florida vs. UNC Wilmington, 1:00 p.m. On Radio: 104.9 FM
Florida vs. Charleston Southern, 3:30 p.m. On Radio: 104.9 FM

At last week's season-opening Kajikawa Classic in Tempe, Ariz., Stewart, a freshman who was rated the No. 2 recruit in the nation (ESPN), led then-No. 14 Florida to five straight wins, including victories over No. 3 California, No. 5 Oregon and No. 13 Arizona.

For her efforts, Stewart, from Maize High School in Wichita, Kansas, was named the Southeastern Conference Player of the Week.

She continued her hot pace Wednesday, going 3-for-5 at the plate to lead the Gators (6-0), who jumped to No. 5 in this week's rankings, to a 14-3 road win over Jacksonville.




“It's definitely exciting,” Stewart said. “I've been working hard every day, and Florida softball is a big deal.”

Stewart, who has started four games at second base and two at shortstop, heads into this weekend's Lipton Invitational leading UF in batting average (.565), slugging percentage (1.027), on-base percentage (.615), hits (13), RBI (7), total bases (25), steals (6) and triples (2) and is tied for the team lead in home runs (2) and doubles (2).

She's also posted a .955 fielding percentage and is a perfect 6-for-6 in stolen base attempts.

“At first I couldn't sleep at night because I was like, ‘Oh my God, I have to keep my spot, like I have to do good,'” she said. “But it's getting easier and easier, and I'm finally feeling relaxed and comfortable with everything. Learning new things is fun.”

Head coach Tim Walton knew early-on he had a new gem on the diamond.

“Kelsey Stewart is going to be a good player for us for a really long time,” he said. “You're going to see her a lot. She's really good and really athletic, and she can hit herself out of slumps easily because she can do some things with her speed. She's a proven leadoff hitter.”

As UF's table-setter in the lineup, Stewart has stepped into some big shoes left by former Gator great Michelle Moultrie.

“It's awesome,” Stewart said. “I really look up to her. Sometimes she'll come to practice and I can ask her questions and try to get a little feel for what she was doing, so that's nice.”

Stewart and her Gator teammates make their home debut today when they square off against UNC-Wilmington (3-2) at 4 p.m. before playing Savannah State (3-1) at 6:15 at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium.

Western Carolina (2-2) and Charleston Southern (1-2) round out the field.

Five games are on tap today, starting at 9 a.m., with action continuing Saturday and Sunday.

Admission is free.

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