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Sunday, January 17, 2021

Florida downs Nebraska to conclude Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic

Natalie Lugo tallied 22 strikeouts over the weekend.
Natalie Lugo tallied 22 strikeouts over the weekend.

The Gators proved their top-10 ranking with multiple wins over ranked teams this past weekend.

Florida defeated Nebraska 6-3 on Sunday at the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic in Cathedral City, California. That win concluded a weekend for the Gators in which they went 4-1 on the West Coast. In all likelihood, now-No. 7 UF will climb into the top-five in the USA Today/NFCA Coaches Poll after an excellent weekend, highlighted by forcing No.1 UCLA to extra innings late Saturday night. 

Florida’s pitching staff showed consistency all weekend. Despite working with a four-person rotation in the circle (Danni Farley did not appear in any of Florida’s five games this weekend), the Gators all performed comparably, conceding just 14 runs through five games. 

On Sunday, the pitching load was largely shouldered by junior Natalie Lugo. 

She threw just over six innings, starting the first five before senior Katie Chronister relieved her in the sixth. Lugo re-entered the circle in the final inning to end the game and the tournament for Florida. It was enough to limit the Cornhuskers to three runs on the afternoon while her offense scored six. UF’s runs came off an RBI from senior Kendyl Lindaman, two from sophomore Charla Echols, two from senior Jordan Roberts and one from freshman Julia Cottrill.

The efforts against the Bruins on Saturday came from the arms of Chronister, sophomore Elizabeth Hightower and freshman Rylee Trlicek. Chronister and Hightower only combined for a little over two innings of work. However, the freshman carried it the rest of the way. 

She conceded seven hits against UCLA but only allowed two of them to turn into runs. That ability to close kept the scoreline narrow for the Gators, forcing an eighth inning against the nation’s top team. 

Offensively, UF was below its average total of just over six runs a game entering the weekend, but that is largely due to stiffer competition in the tournament. In the most recent poll, only one team that Florida had played all year (No. 8 Michigan) was ranked in the Top 25 heading into the weekend. But at the Mary Nutter Classic, four out of the five teams coach Tim Walton’s group faced were ranked. Even against that stiff competition and hitting being a huge issue last year, this year’s version of Florida softball averaged 3.5 runs per game this weekend. 

UF now gets its longest break since the start of the season, with five days until it takes the field again. The Gators will be back home Friday to face Louisiana Lafayette for their first series of the year. 

Follow Graham Marsh on Twitter @GrahamMarshUF. Contact him at gmarsh@alligator.org.

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