Second baseman Hannah Adams bailed out Florida’s lackluster offense with a walk-off bomb in the eighth inning of its 1-0 win over McNeese State. The Gators had defeated Louisville in game one 2-0.
UF had its earliest start since 2018 with a 10 a.m. first pitch, and they struggled to wake up offensively.
UF’s offense resembled a college student on the day of an exam. It started sluggish, then powered through with a bolt of energy until a late crash.
Florida didn’t register a runner on base the first two innings, before drinking some coffee in the third. With infielder Jaimie Hoover on second, center fielder Cheyenne Lindsey lined a single up the middle, scoring Hoover.
The Gators seemed ready to strike gold again with the bases loaded and third baseman Charla Echols at the plate. Louisville made a pitching change and brought in righty Jennifer Leonardt, who stalled the Gators offense.
Echols flew out, which was enough to drive home Lindsey. Catcher Julia Cottrill followed up with a pop out, and the inning ended.
While Florida’s offense went into hibernation, its pitching was more than alert. Left-hander Katie Chronister started her second game of the season and delivered a gem. The fifth year picked up her fifth win of the season after six innings and three hits.
Louisville only mounted any sort of attack during the fourth and sixth. In the fourth, the Cardinals positioned runners on first and third with one out. Florida overcame the jam through a strikeout and a ground out. Louisville reached first and second with two outs in the sixth, before Cottrill picked off catcher Taryn Weddle.
To close out the game, coach Tim Walton called in Elizabeth Hightower to get the save. She promptly retired the Cardinals in order and earned her first save of the season.
“I’m not upset at all,” Chronister said. “We have a staff for a reason, so I’m really proud she (Hightower) can shut them down like she did.”
The Gators played softball for nearly four hours when Hannah Adams came to the plate in the bottom of the eighth inning with the score tied at zero.
The second baseman ensured fans who sat through hot weather would go home happy when she blasted a 1-2 pitch over the right-center wall to give Florida a 1-0 win over McNeese State.
Adams became somewhat of the team’s savior. Last Wednesday, she hit a walk-off double to beat Jacksonville 1-0.
“I think that’s something I’ve grown into,” Adams said of her ability to get big hits late in games. “I’ve learned to not make the moment bigger than it is and stay calm and trust my preparation.”
The grounds crew bopping to “YMCA” was the most exciting part of the game through the first seven innings. The matchup was a real pitchers duel.
Natalie Lugo set up in the circle for Florida and supplied her best start of the season. The right-hander, who was perfect through the first four, conceded one hit in 5 1/3 innings. In the fifth, first baseman Caylon Brabham doubled to lead off, and MSU runners stood on first and third after a hit by pitch. Lugo got out of the jam thanks to a double play.
The following inning, Walton brought in Hightower and pulled Lugo with one out. In the next 2 2/3 innings, the junior didn’t allow a hit.
“I think it's all about guts,” Walton said of his decision. “I may have brought in Elizabeth too late, but in the end, it was the right decision.”
Besides Adams' walk-off, Florida’s offense floundered even more against the Cowgirls. It recorded just four hits and left five on base.
“I don’t think we need to make very many changes,” Adams said. “We just need to get in there and prepare for what’s next, and we’ll be totally fine.”
No. 6 UF improved to 4-0 all-time over Louisville and McNeese State. It welcomes in New Mexico State
Contact Noah at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @Noah_ram1
Noah is a third year journalism-sports and media student from Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. He has been with The Alligator since Spring 2019 and has covered men’s and women’s tennis, gymnastics and volleyball. When he isn’t on his beat, Noah is usually sadden over his beloved South Florida sports teams, such as the Heat and Dolphins.