UL Softball Opponent Scouting Report: Florida Gators
How good are the Florida Gators?
Do you/we have to ask?
They're every bit as good as their ranking and reputation would indicate.
They're an elite softball program, with two national titles and three championship appearances over the last four years, with all the pieces in place to contend for a national crown this year.
The 16th-ranked Louisiana Ragin' Cajun softball team plays host to 2nd-ranked Florida this weekend at Lamson Park, in a three-game, weekend, non-conference series.
The two teams will square off in a 3 o'clock Saturday doubleheader, before meeting in a single game on Sunday, beginning at 1 pm.
You can hear all three games on Sports Radio ESPN 1420 and espn1420.com.
Both teams are 6-0 on the young 2018 season.
Obviously, Florida will represent Louisiana's biggest test of the season.
The Gators are everything they're cracked up to be, and more.
Florida, who went 58-10 last season, fell to the Oklahoma Sooners in the Women's College World Series Championship Series.
The Gators won back-to-back national championships in the 2014 and 2015 seasons.
Florida returns most of their roster, including Kelly Barnhill, the Player of the Year in 2017, from last year's roster, and the early season results show that, as they're off to a 6-0 start, outscoring the opposition, 51-3.
The Gators have the best pitching staff in the country, headlined by Barnhill, who is 2-0 this season, while not allowing a run in 14 innings of work.
A junior right-hander, Barnhill is 43-5 lifetime, with a sub 0.80 ERA.
It's very simple; the best pitcher in the country will be throwing this weekend at Lamson Park.
Senior right-hander Aleshia Ocasio would be the ace on most other staffs in the nation.
Ocasio, who went 20-1 with a 0.70 ERA in 2016, is off to a 3-0 start this season, along with a 1.50 ERA.
She is a two-time first team All-SEC pick, as well as a 2016 NFCA First Team All-American.
Not a bad #2 pitcher, huh?
Sophomore left-hander Katie Chronister and freshman right-hander Natalie Lugo, who have thrown a combined 8 innings, without allowing a run, round out the talented Florida staff.
In 6 games this season, Florida pitching has only allowed 3 runs in 33 innings, to go along with 5 shutouts.
Runs will be hard to come by for the Cajuns, as every team in the nation struggles to score runs against this pitching staff.
Offensively, Amanda Lorenz leads the Gators, hitting a .529 over the first six contests.
A junior outfielder, Lorenz was tabbed a first-team All-American last season, after hitting a .388, to go along with 11 home runs and 46 runs batted in.
Jordan Matthews, arguably the top freshman hitter in the nation, is hitting a .462, and leads the Gators in RBI's, with 10.
Ocasio, who performs double duty, is .310 career hitter, and is off to a .333 start this season.
Florida, who is averaging over 8 runs a contest, has six players hitting over a .300.
And oh yeah; Florida is a good defensive team. In six games this season, they haven't made an error yet.
For the Cajuns to have a chance to be successful this weekend, they're going to need everybody to contribute.
They need their pitchers to hold down the Florida bats, knowing that they, themselves, won't get a lot of runs to work with.
UL needs their hitters to compete against an incredible pitching staff.
I think Brittany Rodriguez is going to be a key for the Cajuns. If she can get on, like she has been all year, that will allow the rest of the line-up to play small ball, and put some pressure on the Gators.
Louisiana is awfully good too. I think with their speed and defense, that they match-up with Florida pretty well, and can have some success this weekend, but they're going to have to play really well.
As good as the Cajuns have been this year, and as impressive as Thursday night's win over Oregon St. on Thursday night was, they're going to have to be even better this weekend.
The Cajuns are going to have to be almost perfect defensively, and be aggressive and make the most of their opportunities, offensively, while limiting the Florida bats and coming through with some clutch hits of their own.
It will be a tough chore, without question, but one that can be accomplished.
Make no mistake; as good as Florida is, Louisiana is awfully good too, even though they're far from a finished product.
UL can have success, but there is no margin for error.
Regardless of what happens, it should be a great atmosphere at the park this weekend, as two of the best programs in the nation go at it in a fun three-game set.
It's not very often that one of the top five teams in the country come to Lafayette, in any sport, so it's a series that Louisiana fans should flock to the ballpark to see.
It's also a series that will make the Cajuns even better, win or lose, as the 2018 season goes along.