The Gators’ dreams came true in Big League Dreams Park tonight with their first two wins over ranked opponents this season.
No. 7 Florida downed No. 5 Arizona and No. 25 Northwestern by the same score, 3-2, in the opening night of the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic in Palm Springs, California. Both wins were earned primarily off the bat of junior Hannah Adams, whose walk-off single helped the Gators come back from behind in game two.
Freshman Rylee Trlicek stood in the circle for all seven innings against Arizona (11-3) and threw three strikeouts, one of which sent Jessie Harper — the Wildcats’ second-leading home-run hitter — walking back to her dugout.
The Gators advanced to 6-5 all-time against Arizona after their momentous win and Trlicek (5-0) remained undefeated after an impressive performance.
Sophomore Charla Echols flipped the script on the No. 11 home-run hitting team in the NCAA early in game one. She launched a ball into the mountain range that surrounds the ballpark, putting Florida on the board with a home run on the first pitch of her second at bat. It was her sixth of the season.
In the top of the fifth, Arizona’s Sharlize Palacios drove Alyssa Palomino-Cardoza home — the sixth run she’s driven in this season. Junior Hannah Adams answered with her second homer of the season to regain the lead for the Gators in the bottom of the same inning, to make the score 2-1, Florida.
Despite the points of emphasis coach Tim Walton made during a pregame radio interview about minimizing errors in order to win this weekend, the Gators produced three against Arizona. Back-to-back errors in the top of the sixth granted Isabella Dayton an unearned run and tied the game at two.
Mariah Lopez started in the circle for the Wildcats but was relieved by fellow senior Alyssa Denham after allowing her second and third home runs of the season to Echols and Adams.
Kendyl Lindaman’s RBI single at the bottom of the sixth sealed the win for Florida.
Junior pitcher Natalie Lugo started at the pitcher’s plate in game two against Northwestern (4-7). Fresh off her first solo no-hitter Wednesday night, Lugo pitched 4.2 innings for the orange and blue. Of her 92 pitches, 55 of them were strikes. She allowed four hits, zero runs and faced 22 batters.
The Gators’ bats weren’t as hot against Northwestern, however. The Wildcats retired Florida’s first nine batters, holding them to no runs through the first three innings.
Still scoreless with one out remaining in the top of the fifth, Trlicek stepped into the circle for Florida.
The scoring drought ended when Northwestern’s Sydney Supple hit an RBI single up the right side, sending teammate Sammy Stanley home and putting Northwestern up, 1-0 in the top of the sixth.
Lindaman retorted with a solo shot in the bottom of the sixth and tied the game at 1-1. With that at bat, the senior extended her hitting streak to 14 consecutive games.
A leadoff double from sophomore Jordyn Rudd turned into a run after a short single from senior Morgan Newport in the bottom of the seventh. Northwestern regained the lead, 2-1. The Wildcats left only half an inning for the Gators to come back.
And that they did. Adams punched a walk-off two-RBI single to beat Northwestern, 3-2 in dramatic fashion.
Florida will return to the diamond tomorrow at 5:30 p.m. EST to take on No. 16 Arizona State and again at 8:30 p.m. EST to duke it out with No. 1 UCLA.
Follow Payton on Twitter @petitus25 and contact her at email@example.com.
Payton is a sophomore journalism major from Jacksonville, Florida. She is The Alligator's Spring 2021 digital managing editor. Her previous roles include softball beat writer, football beat writer and online sports editor. Payton's home in Jackson