Enea Easily Adjusted to Position Change

Gator softball left fielder Francesca Enea knows a little something about the College World Series. Her sister Christina made the trip to Oklahoma City three times during her All American career at Oklahoma.

As for the field in Oklahoma City, the Gators' leading slugger who led Florida with 15 home runs, 60 RBI and 125 total bases has some familiarity there after winning two ASA national titles during her prep years.

"We have a lot of players that have already played at that field," Enea said. "We also have a lot of players that know what it's like to play in a big game from travel ball. I don't see us looking like deer in headlights. I don't see us at all freaking out. I think we're going to play our game and get it done."

Enea almost didn't have the chance to help the Gators get it done, though. In the middle of her last season, she suffered a knee injury and learned that she had a torn ACL after the season.

"I never thought that it's done or it's over," Enea said. "I thought it would be fine, but then they told me I tore my ACL, and I said, ‘is that bad?'"

Enea was given the option of getting her knee surgically repaired or rehabbing and only playing half a year. She obviously chose the second option.

"Softball is my life," she said. "I couldn't even imagine not playing. They gave me the option of getting the surgery or coming back and playing halfway and I definitely wanted to play. I couldn't imagine sitting on the bench and not contributing."

But in order to contribute, Enea had to give up the position that she had played all her life. She had always been behind the plate, but since she wasn't medically cleared to play again until December, she wasn't able to prepare for a full season catching. Coach Tim Walton moved his star recruit from catcher to the outfield in a position switch that he described as seamless.

"If you had told me last year that I would have been playing outfield, I would have laughed in your face," Enea said. "I've never done anything but catch. I felt more pressure in the outfield than hitting. For my team, I didn't want to make an error that was going to sacrifice my team. That's the biggest thing for me personally."

With Enea back, the Gators had all the pieces back from last year's squad that fell one game short of the College World Series. She felt that with the addition of freshman Aja Paculba, whose .340 batting average is third on the team, and the return of Kim Waleszonia, who left in the fall to spend time with her father who was diagnosed with cancer, Florida had all the pieces in place to finally get over the hump and make it to Oklahoma City.

"I knew Stacey Nelson was going to be good with the kind of year that she had last year, and then everyone else returned a year older and more mature," Enea said. "I knew we were going to be a great team."

Playing in the outfield rather than the more physically demanding catcher position, Enea believes she's been more fresh this season, allowing her to hit .338 after hitting .227 as freshman. She also boasts a .613 slugging percentage and an on-base percentage of .405.

With the Gators heading to the College World Series for the first time in school history, Enea said they have a lot to prove.

"Not only are we representing the University of Florida, but we're also representing the SEC," she said. "I think it would be a big deal to do things that no other team has been able to do. But we're going to just play our game."

Florida heads to Oklahoma City winning 40 of their last 41 games. The loss came last week in the NCAA Regionals to UCF.

"I think the loss last week was good," Enea said. "Even going into the first game we weren't playing the way we normally do and we were passive. I think that loss really woke us up, and it made us remember how easy it is to lose a game like that. Even before we lost that game, I had said I kind of wished that we had lost or had a closer game just to see what would have happened."

Florida opens World Series play on Thursday at 1:00 p.m. against Louisiana-Lafayette.

Questions or comments? Contact FightinGators.com's Chris Chmielenski

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