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Sunday, January 17, 2021

Florida downs Arizona State, falls to UCLA in day two of Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic

<p>Elizabeth Hightower</p>

Elizabeth Hightower

It was one extra inning of play for a ton of extra confidence.

In a season of uncertainty in the circle for the Gators, a familiar face and a new one to this year’s version of UF have been more than a pleasant surprise for coach Tim Walton’s group.

Right-handed junior Natalie Lugo and the left-handed Rylee Trlicek, dusted Arizona State in Florida’s third game at the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic. Then, Trlicek joined senior Katie Chronister and sophomore Elizabeth Hightower in facing the No. 1 team in the nation in UCLA.

Florida barely dropped that game 5-4, forcing extra innings against the Bruins.

Trlicek pitched the majority of the second game, relieving senior Katie Chronister. It became the first game that Trlicek had ever competed in collegiately that her team lost.

The Gators jumped out to an early lead on the No.1 Bruins, earning three runs in the second inning.

Then in the third, the trend of freshman contribution continued for Florida when first-year Baylee Goddard smacked a home run off UCLA pitcher Megan Faraimo, who relieved Bruins starter Holly Azevedo after just 1.1 innings.

Offensively, UF got one more run in the fourth inning and then was stagnant the rest of the game. After the homer from Goddard, Faraimo did not concede a single run the rest of the game.

Meanwhile, UF’s pitching staff finally wore down. Everyone who took the circle for UF gave up at least one run.

Two of those runs came in the fourth for the Bruins, when Walton made the pitching change to Trlicek with runners on first and second. That decision seemed to pay off for most of the game, as she went three straight innings without conceding a run until finally caving in in the eighth to lose the game.

While the Gators lost a heartbreaker, it may have been the most impressive performance of the season for the orange and blue, taking the top team in the nation to extra innings and showing that this team is still a national force without Barnhill in the circle.

In the first game, Lugo pitched 5.2 innings and gave up just two hits and one run. Trlicek then came in and closed things for the orange and blue, allowing no runs for the Sun Devils and just one hit.

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Against this duo, the No. 16 team in the country, which averages over eight runs per contest, only had one runner’s cleat touch home plate all game and it only got runners on base six times total.

Offensively, the Gators got most of their work done in the sixth inning. With the game tied 1-1, junior Jordan Matthews started the action when she pinch hit for shortstop Sophia Reynoso.

Matthews, along with senior Jamie Hoover and junior Hannah Adams, all got on base with singles. ASU second baseman Bella Loomis and center fielder Kindra Hackbarth both errored to get Matthews and Hoover back home to push the lead to 3-1. Then, Kendyl Lindaman stepped up to bat and hit Adams home to stretch the lead one more.

Florida must recover quickly, as it gets Nebraska Sunday morning at 11:30 a.m. EST to continue the tournament.


Elizabeth Hightower

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