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Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Echols crushes two long balls as Florida demolishes Kennesaw State

Echols hit her third home run in as many games Wednesday night

<p>First baseman Kendyl Lindaman notched a single and an RBI Wednesday against Stetson</p>

First baseman Kendyl Lindaman notched a single and an RBI Wednesday against Stetson

Jaimie Hoover strode to home plate in the bottom of the sixth inning with the bases loaded, and a chance to win the game.

She poked the ball to shallow right field, and it careened off Kennesaw State right fielder Raleigh Williams glove. Baylee Goodard scored, and the ballgame ended.

Hoover’s walk-off may not have been pretty, but it capped off a dominant Gators offensive performance as they mercy-ruled Kennesaw State 10-2 Wednesday evening at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium.

After only posting two runs in Saturday night’s loss to FSU, coach Tim Walton tinkered with the lineup. He made multiple changes, chief among them Hoover going to the nine spot and center fielder Cheyenne Lindsey to lead-off.

Walton said the team tried the lineups multiple times before in scrimmages.

“Our offense is good, but not dynamic, so I was trying to change some things up,” Walton said. “We want to stretch that lineup as far as we can go.”

In the circle, Walton sent out senior Natalie Lugo in her first start since Feb. 28. The right-hander mowed down the Owls in the first two innings. She ran into some third inning issues when Brea Dickey hit a two-out bomb over the left-center wall. The Owl bench hooted in celebration as KSU took the 2-1 lead.

UF discovered an answer in the bottom of the frame: Charla Echols. The third baseman curved the ball to the left side of the foul pole. Lindsey and second baseman Hannah Adams scored to put Florida back on top. Lindsey began the rally with a lead-off triple.

“I try to take it one step at a time and stay within myself,” Lindsay said.

Walton brought in lefty Katie Chronister with two outs in the fourth. Chronister struggled in her last appearance Saturday in Tallahassee. She allowed five runs in one inning of work but returned to her normal form Wednesday night as she struck out five Owls.

In the bottom half of the inning, KSU pitcher Melanie Bennett walked two Florida batters, placing runners on second and third for Lindsey. She singled up the middle, which an Adams sacrifice-fly followed. The Gators again loaded the bases, but pinch-hitter Jordan Matthews struck out. Bennett gave four Gators a free pass in the inning. In total, she walked six players and struck another four.

Adams kicked off the sixth with a base hit, and Echols stuck gold twice with her second explosion of the night, this one a deep shot just barely over the center field wall.

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“It feels good to see our offense starting to grow,” Echols said. “We all knew we could be a good offensive team, so we are just sticking to the plan.”

Hoover’s winner supplanted three hit-by-pitches, and an Avery Goelz double. The freshman concluded the night 3-3 and knocked her average up to .364.

UF earned more hits Wednesday night, 10, than in any game since Feb. 25. Walton views it as a welcomed improvement.

“Overall, we played productive softball,” Walton said. “If you aren’t going to steal bases, you better handle the bat well and I feel like we did that.”

Florida moves into the SEC portion of the schedule Friday against Kentucky.

Contact Noah Ram at Follow him on Twitter @Noah_ram1

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Noah Ram

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.

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