Florida Softball Ranked No. 5 to Start Season

The Gators have some questions in the lineup this season, but they still rank No. 5 in the Preseason Softball USA Today/NFCA Poll. The loss of left fielder Francesca Enea, one of the best power hitters in school history, will be tough to overcome. However, the maturation of younger players and the top recruiting class in the country will keep expectations high this season.

The only key losses from last year's team are Enea and third baseman Corrie Brooks. They combined to hit 30 home runs, which will be tough to replace, but the talent on the Florida roster shouldn't allow a big drop off.

Brittany Schutte is coming off a freshman year where she hit .346 with 19 home runs and 59 RBIs. Her bat will be important to the middle of the order. Outfielder Kelsey Bruder will combine with Shutte to give the Gators power in the middle of the lineup. Bruder hit .367 with 16 home runs and 49 home runs.

The Gators will have a senior middle infield with shortstop Megan Bush and second baseman Aja Paculba. Bush belted 15 home runs and 50 RBIs last season, while Paculba hit .314 and led the team with 58 runs scored.

Outfielder Michelle Moultrie returns to serve as the spark plug at the top of the lineup. She led the team last year with a .389 batting average.

The team also welcomes freshman utility player Kasey Fagan, who was named Gatorade National Player of the Year at Dunnellon High School.

Florida returns its top two pitchers from last season. Senior right-hander Stephanie Brombacher was the ace last season, going 35-8 with a 2.01 ERA. Sophomore Ensley Gammel went 13-2 with a 2.44 ERA and should be even better this year.

This is the third straight year the team starts the season ranked in the top five.

Defending national champion UCLA came in at No. 1. Even though the Gators were No. 5, they were the third highest ranked team in the SEC. Georgia and Tennessee came at third and fourth, respectively. The other two ranked teams in the SEC were Alabama at No. 6 and LSU at No. 19.

The Gators open their season February 11-13 at the USF Wilson DeMarini Tournament in Tampa. The home schedule begins on February 19 at 1 p.m. when they host North Carolina.

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