The Gators took the field this past weekend in Tampa against five opponents hoping the No. 2 ranked team in the nation had too much youth to escape the weekend unbeaten.
What they found was completely different.
The Gators just have too much talent.
Florida finished the weekend with a perfect 5-0 record to begin the season, and outscored opponents 35-2.
The Fairfield Inn Tournament, hosted by USF, was set to begin on Friday, but inclement weather postponed most action until Saturday. Florida played only four innings against Long Island University before a downpour caused a postponement of the game until the morning, and a rescheduling of the game against FGCU until Sunday.
Though the tournament’s start was dismal, Florida’s performance was anything but, as the team exploded to three five-inning run-rule shutouts on Saturday.
The wins came over Long Island University 8-0, Maine 8-0, and Illinois State 11-0, and the Gators used outstanding freshmen debuts coupled with upperclassmen leadership to power to an undefeated 3-0 start to the season.
Freshman pitcher Lauren Haeger had an outstanding day, earning her first start and win against Maine, recording 11 strikeouts on 19 batters faced and allowing only three hits. She followed that performance by smashing a three-run homer in the second inning against Illinois State to give the Gators an 8-0 lead.
Perhaps the most impressive freshman of the weekend was Sami Fagan, who earned SEC Freshman Player of the Week honors after starting all five games at third base and posting a .667 batting average with a double, a triple, three RBIs and a two-for-two stolen base performance. Fagan now leads all Gators in batting average and hits (10).
Four of the Gators’ five freshmen started all five games of the weekend, with freshman Alyssa Bache getting the opportunity to close out the team’s first win against Long Island Saturday morning.
Aside from the excellent freshmen play, the Gators also saw great performances from key players from last year’s roster.
Sophomore pitcher Hannah Rogers was astounding over the weekend, starting three games and posting a perfect 0.00 ERA, while also racking up 25 strikeouts and two complete game shutouts in 18.2 innings pitched.
Michelle Moultrie, the team’s lone senior, leads the team with five stolen bases on six attempts and posted a .333 batting average for the weekend.
After capping the weekend with a 3-2 overtime victory against USF and a 5-0 victory over FGCU on Sunday, the Gators left Tampa feeling as if the forecast for their season is bright and sunny.
Florida unleashed its top freshmen recruiting class with fabulous results, and also received the expected great play from its older players.
The team now looks forward to the season home opener Wednesday against Jacksonville University before a three-game weekend stint in Gainesville against Michigan State.
Though both of the next two opponents are unranked, the Gators will need to continue the development of their young players at a fast pace as the following weekend holds a tournament slate against three ranked opponents in Washington, Texas A&M and Texas.
A perfect 5-0 start is well-earned, but also well-expected. The Gators will need to build on the foundation of this past weekend if they are to construct a championship season in Gainesville.