Under the glow of the Friday-night lights, the stage was set at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium for Florida’s first top-10 bout at home. The air was cool, the competition was stiff and the crowd was electric.
The No. 6 Gators shut out No. 10 Louisiana 6-0 in the first matchup of a three-game series in Gainesville this evening.
Florida’s (17-2) top-two hitters were responsible for the first run of the night. After junior second baseman Hannah Adams was dealt her third strikeout of the season by All-American pitcher Megan Kleist, senior first baseman Kendyl Lindaman smacked a frozen rope up right centerfield to reach second base. Sophomore third baseman Charla Echols then hit an RBI single to drive Lindaman home and put Florida up 1-0 on Louisiana.
After an impressive outing against No. 3 Texas earlier this week, Kleist struggled in the circle against the Gators tonight. In 5.1 innings of work, she surrendered six runs on eight hits and two walks with just four strikeouts. The rest of the Cajuns’ (12-5) defense had two critical errors against the orange and blue.
The small, red corner of Louisiana fans in KSP and the visitor’s dugout fed off each other’s energy throughout the game. Players sat on the railing, dancing to the walk-up songs and fist-pumped the air as their fans chanted “Ragin’ Cajuns” with a rhythmic cadence.
But after a double play facilitated by Echols, catcher Julia Cottrill, Adams and redshirt senior Sophia Reynoso sent the Cajuns back on the diamond in the top of the fourth, the black and red fell silent, while the home crowd roared.
“Those (fans) that were here were definitely in tune to the game,” Walton said. “You could feel them when some big plays happened, especially that double play (and) in the fifth inning when we got out of that jam...that was pretty good to see.”
After an RBI single from Reynoso up the right side of the field made way for Jade Caraway to run home for Florida’s second run of the game, the shortstop received a standing ovation.
Lindaman put the crowd back on its feet in the fifth inning after a solo home run, her fourth dinger of the season. Later in the lineup, another RBI single, this time from Cottrill, pushed Florida’s lead out to 4-0.
The Ragin’ Cajuns came the closest to a run in the top of the sixth, when right fielder Taylor Roman hit a single up left field. Third baseman Melissa Mayeux was a few feet away from home when Cheyenne Lindsey launched the ball to Cottrill from left field, who stood between Mayuex and the plate, tagging Mayeux and avoiding interference (to the dismay of the Louisiana fans in attendance).
“We took what they gave us,” coach Tim Walton said about his team’s defensive showing tonight. “We didn’t try to force things. It was really about us just making and executing plays.”
After taking a ball to her catching hand in the bottom of the sixth, Kleist stepped out of the circle and Casey Dixon stepped in.
The first batter she faced was Echols, whose RBI single allowed Adams to score and pinch runner Sarah Longley to charge home on the throw. After six innings, the Gators led 6-0.
Pitchers Natalie Lugo and Katie Chronister combined for five hits, zero runs and three strikeouts against Louisiana. After 3.1 innings — one of which she and the rest of the Gators’ defense managed to work their way out of a bases-loaded jam — Lugo handed the ball over to Chronister, who closed it out for Florida.
The Gators will be back on the diamond for game two against Louisiana tomorrow at 1 p.m.
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