Florida third baseman Charla Echols sailed a double that slipped just under center fielder Renee Abernathy’s glove and toward the back wall. Head coach Tim Walton whipped his arm in exuberant circles and second baseman Hannah Adams rounded third to score Florida’s third run in the sixth inning.
The No. 6 Gators kicked off SEC Opening Weekend with a 3-1 takedown against the No. 7 Kentucky Wildcats.
SEC Pitcher of the Week Elizabeth Hightower pitched her third full game against the Wildcats. The junior racked up seven strikeouts and retired the last 12 Kentucky batters.
Kentucky held a 0-1 lead for a single frame. Hightower found herself with bases loaded and no outs. Walton called a timeout, and Hightower went on to finish off the next three batters in order. A Tatum Spangler sacrifice fly scored Lauren Johnson for the Wildcats’ lone run.
“I can’t worry about what the batter’s going to do,” Hightower said. “I refocused and threw the ball how I know how to throw it.”
The Wildcats’ 19-0 record didn’t last long against the Gators. The feat didn’t phase Hightower.
“It’s the game,” she said. “Anyone can beat anyone on a given day.”
Florida introduced a fresh line up in its midweek tilt against Kennesaw State. The new lineup features Kendyl Lindaman in the four-spot and center fielder Cheyenne Lindsey at lead-off.
The Gators saw little success the first time through the order, but the tides shifted in their second time through.
First baseman Lindaman embodied the “clean-up” persona.
Lindaman strode to the plate with no outs, two on and a one-run deficit. She rattled off five foul balls before she bombed a two-run double off the left field back wall. Her double scored left fielder Jaime Hoover (.366) and third baseman Charla Echols (.462) in the fourth.
“It makes a difference the second time around,” Lindaman said. “Especially just getting feedback from the batters ahead of you and behind you.”
Echols stretched the Gator lead to 3-1 in the sixth with her cleverly placed double to center.
Defensively, Hoover collected four putouts in left field, two of which sent her in a dead sprint toward the walls in foul territory. Hoover secured two of the six total outs the Gator defense made off foul balls. Echols, Adams and shortstop Sarah Longley tallied up the rest.
Florida suits up at 1 p.m. Saturday for its second matchup against Kentucky. The game will stream on SEC Network+.
Contact Rachel Slay at email@example.com and follow her on Twitter @racheljslay.