Florida's Lindaman reflects, looks to push through as she approaches NCAA tournament for the last time

Noah Ram
Special to The Sun
Florida first baseman Kendyl Lindaman is a team leader.

Kendyl Lindaman came back to Gainesville for this moment. 

The Florida Gators' fifth-year senior had the opportunity to leave after last year’s COVID-19 shorten season. 

But instead, she chose to don the orange and blue one last time, and she waited over a year for the chance to return to Oklahoma City for the second time. 

Today, the quest to OKC reaches its final chapter, as No. 4 Florida opens NCAA Regionals at home against USF at 2 p.m. 

“I know it’s the last one, but I think I am just as excited,” Lindaman said. “I know where this team has gotten so far, and where we can go.” 

Lindaman built an impressive resume during her first two seasons at Minnesota. She won Big Ten Player of the Year twice and led the conference in home runs (20) her sophomore campaign. 

However, she never witnessed NCAA tournament success as the Gophers failed to make it out of regionals both seasons. 

Upon transferring to Florida, she joined a program that maintained some tournament success of its own, with Women's College World Series titles in 2014 and 15. 

Lindaman excelled in 2019 and ended with 15 long balls and 42 RBIs on a .330 batting average while UF made it back to the Sooner State. But the squad tied for seventh, its worse finish since 2016. 

After pandemic cut the 2020 season short, the NCAA granted spring athletes an extra year of eligibility on March 30, 2020. 

Lindaman’s teammate, third baseman Charla Echols, knew the first baseman would return. 

“Kendyl loves the game, and I know it hurt all the seniors to get their season cut short,” Echols said. “I knew she didn’t want to walk away after that.” 

In 2021, Lindaman and teammates embarked on a season like no other. She said the season is a learning experience, and she learned to adapt. 

“It was putting you in uncomfortable situations and trying to work through that,” Lindaman said. “The biggest thing for me was learning how to build relationships with the team and not do things we are accustomed to doing.” 

In the locker room, Echols said Lindaman leads and sets the tone for the team. 

“She brings a different kind of confidence and composure that keeps us calm in those pressure situations,” she said. “She’s going to tell you how it is, but she wants the best for everyone, so you listen to her.” 

Lindaman’s numbers this season (8 HRs, 39 RBIs, .312 batting average) rank lower than her prior three full seasons, but she reaches base often. That benefits Echols, who tends to bat next in the lineup. 

“It helps me get in a better mindset knowing someone is on base,” Echols said. “Therefore, I can be prepared to get the job done no matter what it is.” 

Lindaman played her best softball of the season last weekend at the SEC Tournament. She went 5-of-10 with two home runs and six runs batted in. 

Her numbers weren’t the only thing that went up. So did her confidence. 

“I hope it gives my team more confidence knowing I’m ready to go, especially as we get into bigger games” she said. 

If UF ventures back to OKC, Lindaman said she’ll act the same on the field as in 2019, but will soak in the occasion a little more since she won’t be back. 

The Gators must first win the NCAA Regional and Super Regional to earn a spot in Women’s College World Series, which begins June 3.