The USF Wilson-DeMarini Tournament in Tampa, Fla., will kick off the 20th season of Gator Softball and the 11th season of Tim Walton's tenure as head coach.
The Gators will open with Illinois State on Friday at 6:45 p.m. They then will face #2 Michigan on Saturday at 11:45 a.m., then a double header versus Virginia Tech at 1:30 p.m. and USF at 4 p.m.
The four game set will be part of a 14 out of 15 games neutral site schedule to start the season. The Gators only two neutral site losses a year ago were to Tennessee in the SEC tournament and to Michigan in the Women’s College World Series Championship series.
The Gators start the season ranked #1 for the second straight year. They are also picked to win the DSEC this year by the league coaches.
The Gators return eight starters from last year’s title winning team in catcher Aubree Munro, first base Taylor Schwarz, infielder Kelsey Stewart, utility Taylore Fuller, outfielder Kirsti Merritt, outfielder Justine McLean, utility Nicole Dewitt, and first base Kayli Kvistad.
Pitchers Aleshia Ocasio and left hander Delanie Goulney return as well. Ocasio posted an 18-3 record a year ago with two saves, and a 2.01 ERA. Gourley finished 2015 with a 10-2 record, 5 saves, and 2.13 ERA.
A terrific freshman class will also be on tap for this edition of the Gator Softball team. Pitcher Kelly Barnhill, catcher Brooke Clemens, outfielder Amanda Lorenz, outfielder Lily Mann, infielder Sophia Reynoso, infielder Theresa Swertfager, and infielder Alex Voss comprise the nation’s top recruiting class for this go around.
"I'm looking forward to the 2016 season,” Florida head coach Tim Walton said this week. “I'm excited to not only have our freshmen take the field for the first time, but also our last opening weekend for our five seniors who've meant so much to program with their consistent play they've played with."
All 2016 Florida Softball games can be heard on Florida Sports Talk (WGGG-AM & WMOP-AM/FM). Joel Sebastianelli will have the call from Tampa, with former Gator All-American Megan Bush providing analysis.