Five hits. Four runs. One player: Charla Echols.
The Michigan State transfer has served as a major player in the lineup and on defense so far this season for the Gators, but Sunday, her numbers leaped off the stat sheet.
Thanks in part to the sophomore third baseman, Florida topped both Southeastern Louisiana and Florida A&M, 13-1 and 2-1, respectively, on Sunday in Gainesville.
At bat, Echols was four-for-four with three RBI and tied her career-high in hits during the first game of the day against SELU (8-3).
At third base, Echols notched two putouts against SELU and one against FAMU (0-10), having a hand in a total of eight outs.
With a full week of play under her belt in Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium, Echols lauded the fan-fueled environment.
“It’s a lot of excitement. Big crowds. The fans are amazing,” she said. “The energy is always good here, so it was a lot of fun. It definitely already feels like home.”
Senior Kendyl Lindaman, the other Big Ten transfer (from Minnesota) in the Gators’ lineup, had a productive day as well. The first baseman had two runs and two at-bats against the Lions and five putouts in the diamond.
In a game where UF (11-1) scored a season-high 13 runs, SELU went through seven out of nine pitchers in four and a half innings. Jordan Roberts led the orange and blue with four RBI, followed by Echols and freshman Julia Cottrill, who each had three.
As a team, Florida had 27 at-bats against those seven pitchers, having worked through its full lineup and then some in the bottom of the first. The victory marked UF’s sixth run-rule win of the season.
In the rumble of the reptiles, however, the Gators did not have such luck.
Rattlers pitcher Nadia Zenteno held Florida scoreless with a quick three-up, three-down first inning. FAMU’s first batter, Jamesia Stoudemire, smacked a home run off a pitch from Elizabeth Hightower to give her team the first and only lead over the Gators by any team in the weekend-long invitational.
Florida finally answered back with a home run of its own at the bottom of the third from junior Hannah Adams to tie the game at 1-1. An RBI single from Roberts drove Echols home for her fourth run of the day. Roberts’ hit changed the tide, giving the Gators a 2-1 lead at the end of the third.
In the circle against FAMU, Hightower and Natalie Lugo, the latter stepping in at the top of the fifth, allowed only two hits and combined for 11 strikeouts.
After an up and down opener in Tampa marked by preseason and post-Barnhill, Lorenz jitters, this week was able to serve as a crucial confidence boost for Florida before it flies to the west coast for the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic next Friday through Sunday in Palm Springs, California.
But according to coach Tim Walton, the mindset and objective will remain the same, no matter who the opponents are or how high they’re ranked.
“Ultimately, we try to work really hard to prepare for us,” Walton said. “I think that when you prepare for yourselves, you shouldn’t elevate and raise your game, you shouldn’t drop your game to your opponent. You should be able to stay and maintain consistency.”
Follow Payton Titus on Twitter @petitus25. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org