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Softball: Takeaways from No. 4 Florida's red hot, 5-0 weekend at the Bubly Invitational

Ainslie Lee
Gator Sports

The fourth-ranked Florida Gators softball team rebounded from its midweek miscue, going 5-0 over the weekend in the Bubly Invitational, which featured 10 matchups that spanned from Friday to Sunday at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium. 

After the Gators dropped their first game of the season to Southern Miss on Wednesday night, 5-4, Florida finished off its busy week with a pair of wins over Georgia State (3-1, 8-0), a pair of wins over Coastal Carolina (8-1, 17-1) and a win over Tennessee State (6-0). 

After outscoring its competition by a combined score of 42-3, Florida improved to 21-1 on the year. 

Florida Gators' Katie Kistler takes a swing during a game against Coastal Carolina on Sunday afternoon during the Bubly Invitational at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium in Gainesville.

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Here's what we learned:

You can't stop what you can't catch

Florida head coach Tim Walton loves using the saying, "It's a marathon, not a sprint."

And while that's true, sometimes sprinting to a destination is just as effective — just ask Walton's team, which leads the nation in stolen bases, as of this writing. 

The Gators swiped 19 bases over the weekend, bringing their season total to 64. Florida stole six bases in two separate games over the weekend — a feat which hadn't been done since 2017. 

Looking at the lineup Florida often used over the weekend, the Gators have a pile of speedsters through the tail end of the lineup, which turns over to the top of the lineup, which likely ranks amongst the fastest in the country. 

"Katie Kistler, Kendra Falby, Hannah Adams and Skylar Wallace ... they're all different, too. It's a different dynamic of quick," Walton said. "Skylar from home to home, is as fast as anybody I've ever seen."

The Gators' speed was put on full display on Sunday against Coastal Carolina when Wallace hit a ball out to the centerfield warning track. 

And though the ball never left the yard, Wallace recorded a three-RBI, inside-the-park home run, scoring Falby and Adams, who were on the corners. 

"Who doesn't like seeing us speed around the bases, steal bags," Wallace said. "On hits that most people might think is a single, we're turning them into doubles, triples... we're scoring. That's a lot of fun."

Gators finding groove from the plate

Walton warned earlier in the season that once Florida's lineup really starts clicking, it would be explosive. 

And over the weekend, especially on Sunday afternoon, the Gators showed just what Walton was talking about. 

Florida's lineup scattered 50 hits across the weekend, finishing with a batting average of .397. 

Over the weekend, Wallace (7 for 11, 2 3B, 2 HRs, 9 RBIs), Adams (9 for 15, 3 2B, 3 RBIs), Falby (7 for 15, 2B, 3 RBIs) and Avery Goelz (5 for 11, 3 RBIs) led the way for the Gators' lineup. 

In Florida's 17-1 thumping of Coastal Carolina on Sunday, the Gators turned in a nine-run fourth inning that spanned 13 at-bats. 

Later in the day on Sunday, the Gators orchestrated a seven-run inning against Georgia State, of which six runs came with two outs. 

Florida Gators pitcher Elizabeth Hightower is shown during a game against Coastal Carolina on Sunday afternoon during the Bubly Invitational in Gainesville.

"When it goes, it's going to go," Walton said. "We talk about hitting being a really contagious thing. We still play a lot of younger players and once we get a little more confident, we start to build a little on that confidence, you'll see what you saw today. A lot of runs, a lot of good hits, a lot of two-outs hits, a lot of two-strikes hits, a lot of productive at-bats."

Though many of Florida's runs came by way of small ball, the Gators also issued five home runs over the weekend. 

Wallace and freshman Reagan Walsh finished with a pair of home runs apiece, while freshman Sam Roe chipped in a solo shot to walk it off against Georgia State in five innings on Sunday. 

"We hit a couple home runs today," Walton said Sunday. "But we haven't hit as many... I think today, we're coming in tied for last in home runs (in the SEC), but you can do that when you get the number of hits that we have. And the number of stolen bases. That's a run generator, so I think that part is good."

Piecing together the infield ahead of SEC play

With the start of conference play on the horizon, Walton and the Gators are still toying with positions to find the perfect fit. 

The good news is that they have the tools to do that. 

"We've recruited to be deep. We've trained to be deep," Walton said. "We've gotta be one of the deepest. We're super athletic... I like our versatility and I like our depth."

Shortstop has been one of the areas of focus for Florida this year, especially with Wallace, who transferred from Alabama after the 2020 season, becoming eligible this year. 

Though Wallace started at shortstop at Alabama, Walton used her at first base through much of the this season so far. But that began to shift over the weekend.

In four of the weekend's five games, Wallace started at shortstop for the Gators, while Avery Goelz started at first base. 

Walsh, who had been starting at shortstop, moved to designated hitter. 

And while Walton continued to move Wallace around, giving her time at second base, where she continued to make plays, it seems as though the former shortstop won't be a "former" shortstop anymore. 

"Skylar had a really good week, really good weekend," Walton said. "She's just a good softball player. And it's gonna be hard for me to mover her around, I think, moving forward."

Looking ahead

The Gators will have nearly a week to decompress before they open up SEC play on Saturday. 

Florida will host Mississippi State in its first conference series of the season, with game one coming on Saturday at noon, followed by a 4 p.m. game on Sunday and a 7 p.m. game on March 14.