It is safe to say that to this point, the 2023 season has not panned out the way Florida softball had hoped. Picked as the preseason favorites in the SEC, the Gators emerge from their weekend series against Georgia in 6th place in the SEC standings.
But for a team that seems to keep hitting speed bumps, their weekend series win over Georgia is a reminder that Florida still has some fight left in them.
Florida Softball: Sky is the limit
Georgia came into Gainesville ranked 12th in the country and 2nd in the SEC with an overall record of 32-8 and a record of 11-3 inside SEC play. Florida, meanwhile, was ranked 15th in the country and 20th in the RPI rankings.
It made the three-game set a pivotal one, as Florida has seemed a step behind all season when facing top-25 competition.
Skylar Wallace started the weekend out with a bang as she launched a home run into right field on her first at-bat of the series. She followed that up with a home run in the second inning.
When Wallace launched her third home run over the center field fence in the sixth inning to end the game, she ended her night going 4-4 at the plate with a walk and seven RBIs.
More importantly, it was the highest-ranked win Florida had gathered all season. But winning one game is nice; the Gators needed to showcase they could pull off a series win if they were to be taken seriously come NCAA tournament time.
Saturday’s contest was a back-and-forth affair. A three-run first inning, featuring a Charla Echols two-run double, set Florida up for another victory. Except for this time, the pitching didn’t hold up. Lexie Delbrey was tagged for seven runs, five earned, in four innings of work.
Florida entered the 5th inning down 7-6 when Avery Golez to a 1-1 pitch to right field for a two-run home run.
Florida held on to win 8-7 and clinch the series.
Sunday didn’t go so well as the Gators fell 8-2, but taking two out of three from Georgia is an important sign from the squad. Florida has now strung together back-to-back series wins against ranked opposition after falling to South Carolina for the first time since 2003 and narrowly escaping Missouri earlier in the year (Missouri is currently 4-13 in SEC play).
The likelihood of Florida sneaking into a top-eight ranking come NCAA tournament time and hosting a Super Regional round still looks unlikely. Still, Florida is making its case to at least be a top-16 squad and host regionals.
If Florida wants to prove it’s a top-eight squad, it will get that chance over the next week and a half as Florida will travel to Knoxville for a three-game set vs Tennessee. The Vols are 13-2 in SEC play and are sitting in 8th in the RPI rankings.
After that, the Gators will take on the Neighbors to the West, currently ranked 6th in the nation.
This squad is capable, but it must find consistency and must find it soon.