Florida softball: What to watch for as the Gators host NCAA Gainesville regional

Ainslie Lee
Gator Sports
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The Florida Gators softball team hasn't played its last game of the 2022 season at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium. 

As announced during Sunday night's NCAA Selection Show, the Gators (43-16, 13-11 SEC) drew the nation's No. 14 seed — granting them hosting rights for regionals. Joining Florida in the Gainesville regional will be Canisius (32-16, 16-4 MAAC), Wisconsin (28-19, 12-11 Big 10) and Georgia Tech (37-16, 11-13 ACC). 

UF will get its regional play underway Friday when it hosts Canisius in the second game of the regional. 

Here's what to watch as the Gators continue their season. 

SEC wrap-up:Takeaways from Florida softball's SEC tournament play; Gators to host NCAA regional

SEC Tournament:Florida's offense ignites 9-3 win over Kentucky, sending Gators to SEC softball semifinal

Regular season wrap:Florida softball goes 3-1 in final regular-season weekend, suffers stunning loss to FGCU

Defense could carry the Gators far

Florida's outfielder Katie Kistler (29) stretches to make the catch against Arkansas' Marlene Friedman (18) in the bottom of the sixth inning in the semifinal game of the SEC Tournament, Friday, May 13, 2022, at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium.

UF softball having a stingy defense is a tale as old as time. And this year is no different. 

Starting with Florida's infield, having fifth-year second baseman Hannah Adams back is huge for the Gators as they look to keep their season alive in the postseason. 

Adams, who was named a member of the SEC's All-Tournament team, returned to the starting lineup on Wednesday after missing 13 games due to a hand injury. And the Gators certainly are happy to have her back. 

"Just being able to look from the dugout out to the person out at second base who understands the coverages, understands the scouting report, understands the pitches, the pitcher out on the mound and the situation of the game," UF head coach Tim Walton said of Adams. "Huge (relief) for me to be able to have that."

Plus, the Gators boast perhaps one of the best outfields in the country —  freshman Kendra Falby, sophomore Katie Kistler and senior Cheyenne Lindsey have routinely made jaw-dropping plays.  

Together, Falby, Kistler and Lindsey have been flawless in the outfield, each fielding at 1.000 and combining for four double plays. 

Florida's pitchers find comfort knowing that they've got playmakers in the infield and outfield. It takes some of the pressure off the Gators' bullpen, which isn't made up of pitchers that will toss a ton of strikeouts. 

Instead, Florida's pitchers have done a quality job at producing fly- and groundballs, especially junior Rylee Trlicek, who, despite a fielding mental lapse, pitched remarkably well against Arkansas in the SEC tournament semifinal on Friday night. 

Trlicek, who can get her pitches into the upper 60 mph-range, forced three straight ground balls right back to the circle after coming in to relieve Delbrey in the fourth inning on Friday night. 

Those ground balls sent into the shallow infield are exactly what UF wants to see when Trlicek is in the circle. Unfortunately for the Gators, a rushed, errant toss from Trlicek to the catcher would allow Arkansas to scratch across a pair of runs to take the lead. 

Can Florida get hot late?

The Gators have played an up-and-down season in 2022.

Despite a record of 43-16, many have deemed it an underwhelming campaign for the decorated program, which is hosting regionals for the 17th consecutive season.

However, since returning from Baton Rouge, where the Gators took the series against the LSU Tigers and Walton picked up his 1,000th career victory, Florida has held itself differently. 

"This game always finds a way to reward hard work," Walton said. "LSU was a big turning point for us... I think that was the biggest key to our success moving forward was that we were finally able to get over the hump when adversity struck."

Since coming away with a series win over LSU after a walk-off home run by Lindsey, the Gators have gone 5-3, with a 1-2 loss to No. 2 Florida State and a 1-4 loss to No. 4 Arkansas. 

However, both the Seminoles and the Razorbacks had to rally from behind to top the Gators. 

"This isn't the kind of team that's going to win every game," Walton said. "That being said, this is the kind of team that can win a championship easily if they believe in it and come together and we get hot and do some things. This is the kind of team, in my mind, that has the ability to beat anybody. We can beat anybody."

Florida softball schedule

The 14th-ranked Gators will open regional play on Friday afternoon at 4:30 p.m. against MAAC champions, Canisius College (ESPN Plus).

With a win over the Golden Griffins, the Gators will play the winner of Wisconsin-Georgia Tech on Saturday. Wisconsin-Georgia Tech play at 2 p.m. Friday (ESPNU). 

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