Gators softball anxious for test against Crimson Tide
Published: Friday, March 21, 2014 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, March 20, 2014 at 11:41 p.m.
While Florida has been busy pleasing fans with a red-hot 29-2 start to the softball season, there's one goal that hasn't been reached yet: beating Alabama.
Who: No. 7 Alabama (25-4, 6-0 SEC) at No. 2 Florida (29-2, 4-2)
Where: Katie Seashole Pressly Softball Stadium
When: 6 p.m. Friday, 1 p.m. Saturday, 1 p.m. Sunday.
TV/radio Friday: FSN/AM-1230
The No. 2 Gators will finally get a shot at doing just that starting Friday when the No. 7 Crimson Tide (25-4, 6-0 SEC) come to Gainesville for the first time since 2011. The matchup pits the reigning SEC regular-season and league tournament champion Florida against SEC-leading Alabama.
“We're super excited (for the series against Alabama),” sophomore infielder Kelsey Stewart said after Florida's 8-2 win over Central Connecticut State on Tuesday. “Going into the game knowing it will be a great crowd and environment has us very excited.”
While the Gators have suffered their two losses in the past two weeks — a 2-0 setback to visiting Ole Miss on March 7 and a 3-2 decision at LSU last Saturday — Bama is hitting its peak, having won 13 of 14.
Despite the fact Alabama has the player with the highest batting average in the nation in sophomore outfielder Haylie McCleney (.563, seven home runs) and the 10th best team batting average at .343, Florida coach Tim Walton chose to use all four pitchers against CCSU.
“We're just trying to keep them sharp, keep them in their competitive flow,” Walton said. “We're going to need everybody (against Alabama). Sometimes you need four (pitchers) in a game, sometimes you need two in a weekend; sometimes you need four in a weekend. We've got to keep everybody ready to go.”
The Tide aren't the only difficult matchup the Gators are going to face in the coming weeks. Starting with Alabama this weekend, four of the next five SEC series will be against ranked teams — No. 3 Tennessee, No. 21 Auburn and No. 20 Missouri, and that gauntlet doesn't include a home-and-home with No. 11 Florida State.
After playing just three games against currently ranked teams this year, Alabama will provide the Gators with a good test moving forward.
Reader comments posted to this article may be published in our print edition. All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be re-published without permission. Links are encouraged.