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Thursday, February 25, 2021

Gators cruise past Georgia Southern behind big fourth inning

Gators cruise past Georgia Southern behind big fourth inning

<p>Senior Hannah Adams broke the deadlock with a fourth-inning, 2-RBI single. </p>

Senior Hannah Adams broke the deadlock with a fourth-inning, 2-RBI single.

As senior Hannah Adams dug into the batter’s box Friday night with runners on second and third, she and the Florida softball team faced an all too familiar proposition: stranding runners on base. 

After leaving three Gators in scoring position to that point, Adams confidently stroked the ball back up the middle to drive two home and give UF its first lead of the game. 

“It was a big weight off our shoulders,” Adams said about her fourth inning breakthrough. “Especially for our pitchers, they work really hard and it’s great to be able to help them out.”

The infielder’s 2-RBI single opened the floor gates for Florida, as it tacked on five in the fourth, eight on the game and cruised past Georgia Southern 8-3 for a fourth-straight victory. 

UF started slowly at the dish and on the diamond, getting shut out through the first three innings while giving up a cheap second-inning run. 

GSU sophomore Bailee Wilson advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt, and made a daring dash to third with no one covering the bag. Florida threw to the empty base, and Wilson waltzed home to give the Eagles an early lead. 

A bad at-bat from junior Cheyenne Lindsey saw the Gators squander the chance for an immediate response. The center-fielder struck out looking with the bases loaded and just one out. Adams rounded out the inning with a fly-out to left as Georgia Southern maintained a 1-0 advantage. 

A one-out triple from junior Charla Echols set Florida up nicely in the third, but the Gators continued their struggles bringing home runners in scoring position. Sophomore Julia Cottrill lined out to second, and sophomore Baylee Goddard flew out to center to keep the Gator goose egg intact.

A pitchers duel got blown wide open in the fourth inning. After Adams’ breakthrough up the middle, Echols corked a line-drive home run out to right-center. The Michigan State transfer’s blast drove in three, and Florida took a 5-1 lead after four. 

Echols has enjoyed a super-human start to the 2021 season and batted 11-13 while hitting two home runs and tallying five extra base hits. 

“The way she’s able to square the ball and control her ball flight, she’s been doing a good job hitting the ball all over the field,” coach Tim Walton said about Echols’ start. “I’m really happy with her process and the way she works everyday.”

It was three up, three down for both teams in the fifth, as UF’s cushion didn’t budge against the benign Eagles offense. The Gators added insurance in the sixth. After Echols reached on a single and freshman Emily Wilkie walked, Goddard drove them both in with a booming triple down the left field line. A sacrifice fly prodded her the extra 60 feet as Florida took an 8-1 lead.

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A late-game surge from Georgia Southern only served to add a few blemishes to Florida pitcher Natalie Lugo’s box score. Lugo tossed a gem through six innings and struck out seven while allowing a single hit. The two earned runs she allowed in the seventh brough the final score to 8-3. 

The Gators will take the field Saturday at 1 p.m. for a rematch against Georgia Southern and again at 4 p.m. against Charlotte

Contact Declan Walsh at dwlash@alligator.org or on Twitter a @declanaw

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