#1 Florida Softball 2015 Preview

Florida Gators

Overall Rank: #1
Conference Rank: #1 SEC  
#1 Florida Softball 2015 Preview
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The Florida Gators finally kicked the door down and won their first ever national championship in program history. They dispatched rival Alabama in two straight games in the best two out of three championship series portion of the Women’s College World Series. Florida got rolling offensively in the postseason at a level that quite simply no one in college softball was going to stop. The Gators bring back a nice amount of core players from last season which makes them a definite favorite to repeat as national champions.

2014: 55-12, 15-9
2014 Postseason: NCAA
Coach: Tim Walton

Field Players:
When you play Florida, you know going in that you better be ready to battle offensively because the odds of consistently shutting down their offense are very long. Infielder Kelsey Stewart is back along with infielder/pitcher Lauren Haeger to lead what should be a very explosive offense once again. Stewart hit .438, with 102 hits and stole 36 bases along with playing excellent defense. Haeger will lead the way again from a power perspective for Florida as she hit 20 homeruns and drove in 67 runs last season. Outfielder Kirsti Merritt is back as well and she will provide more depth power wise to protect Haeger after hitting 13 homeruns and driving in 52. She has great plate discipline too and drew 38 walks, while striking out just 23.

With Hannah Rogers graduating, it will interesting to see who emerges as the true number one starter for the Gators this season. Delanie Gourley should get the first shot to seize control of the number one spot in the rotation so Lauren Haeger can primarily concentrate on first base and dominating at the plate. Gourley won 15 games a year ago and did a nice job as a freshman of navigating the offensive heavy Southeastern Conference. One big key for Gourley will be to try and keep her homeruns allowed count under 20 as she will probably pitch over 200 innings this season.

Who to Watch:
The veteran experience of outfielder Briana Little will be very important this season. As a senior Little will be looking to finish off her career strong by building off of a .320 batting average last season. Little hit five homeruns and drove in 26 while starting just 31 games. You would figure with increased playing time as a starter that getting up towards ten homeruns is a very legitimate possibility and that will make the Florida lineup that much more dangerous to deal with.

Final Projection:
For the Gators the nonconference schedule will be very balanced and challenging at the same time. Michigan will be in Gainesville during the opening weekend of the season in what could be a College World Series opening round preview type of a matchup. On February 27th, Florida will get their first of two shots in the regular season against an Oregon Ducks team that could very well make it to the championship series this season as well. The two in-state rivalry matchups with Florida State on April 8th and 22nd is also a potential championship series matchup as the Seminoles’ Lacey Waldrop could be the kryptonite for the Gator offense. The conference slate has a tough start with a series against LSU and a rematch against Alabama in Tuscaloosa from March 21-23. If Florida can get at least four wins out of those two series, they will be in great shape. The other key signature series in conference play that could swing things in either direction is against Kentucky from April 11-13. The Wildcats catapulted into the national conversation by making it to the Women’s College World Series and will not be an easy out for Florida. As long as the pitching steps like it did during the postseason, the Gators are going to be in every game with very legitimate shot to win 60 games and repeat as national champions.

Projected Postseason: NCAA Softball Tournament

Returning Leaders:
At Bats: Kelsey Stewart, IF, 233
Hits: Kelsey Stewart, IF, 102
Home Runs: Lauren Haeger, IF/P, 20
RBIs: Lauren Haeger, IF/P, 67
Runs: Kelsey Stewart, IF, 68
Stolen Bases: Kelsey Stewart, IF, 36

Wins: Delanie Gourley, P, 15
Innings Pitched: Delanie Gourley, P, 107.2
Strikeouts: Delanie Gourley, P, 127
Complete Games: Delanie Gourley, P, 9

Madness 2015 NPF Draft Rankings:
#2 Lauren Haeger

Madness 2015 Softball Recruit Rankings:
#6 Nicole DeWitt
#7 Kayli Kvistad
#15 Janell Wheaton


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