GAINESVILLE, Fla. – The University of Arkansas softball team closes out the 2016 regular season with a weekend road trip to the Sunshine State to face No. 1 Florida. The three-game series begins Friday with first pitch set for 5 p.m. (CT) at Pressly Stadium in Gainesville. In addition to television coverage, all three games will be streamed live on SEC Network+ through the WatchESPN app.
Saturday’s game of the Arkansas-Florida series will be played in front of a national television audience on ESPNU, for the team’s 14th TV appearance this year. Cara Capuano and Garland Cooper will be in the booth handling the play-by-play and color commentary duties, respectively. Portions of Sunday’s finale will be part of the SEC Network’s Bases Loaded coverage on the final day of the league’s regular season.
This weekend marks the 10th series played in Gainesville between Arkansas and Florida. Five of the Razorbacks’ 11 wins in the all-time series have come on the Gators’ home field. Overall, Florida holds a 41-11 advantage with Arkansas looking for its first win in the series since 2007. The three-game set also marks the second time the Razorbacks will face Florida as the No. 1 team in the country (2009).
Arkansas’ hottest bat belongs to sophomore Tori Cooper who enters the final weekend of the regular season with a hit in eight of the past 10 including eight straight. She has also reached base safely in 10-consecutive games, becoming the fifth Razorback this season with an on-base streak of 10 or more games. Cooper is hitting .287 this season but leads Arkansas (17-36, 1-20 SEC) with a .356 batting average against SEC opponents.
Overall, freshman Ashley Diaz continues to pace the team’s offense with a .335 batting average, 12 home runs and 41 RBI. She is one of nine SEC players named to the NFCA National Freshman of the Year Top 25 watch list in late April. Arkansas has 49 home runs as a team this season which is the sixth most in a single season in program history. Juniors Shelby Hiers and Nicole Schroeder have nine and eight home runs this season, respectively.
Junior pitcher Grace Moll enters the Florida series ranked second in the SEC with 176 strikeouts this season. Last weekend against No. 12 LSU, she had nine strikeouts in an April 30 start to establish a new high in an SEC game. During the season, Moll has moved into seventh place on the program’s list with 279 career strikeouts. Behind her, the Razorback defense has turned 25 double plays which is second in the SEC and tied for ninth in the NCAA.
Florida (49-4, 17-4 SEC) had held the top spot in the NFCA/USA Top 25 poll for all but one week this season. Offensively, the Gators are led by Kayli Kvistad who carries a .407 batting average with a team-high 11 home runs and 57 RBI. She is one of six Florida hitter with a .300 or higher batting average. In the circle, the Gators’ pitching staff leads the NCAA with a 0.94 team ERA with Aleshia Ocasio leading the charge with an 18-1 record and 122 strikeouts in 123 innings.
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