Catcher Emily Wilkie settled into a two outs, bases loaded situation in the first inning. She launched a grand slam over the scoreboard and into the retention pond behind Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium to put the Gators up 4-0.
No. 5 Florida put away North Dakota 7-1 and improved its record to 18-2.
The Gators’ success came, not from their green stirrups, but from North Dakota’s pitchers Jannay Jones and Lauren Feld. The duo dealt six walks total, five after Wilkie’s slammer, and Florida’s offense tallied six hits, four of which were singles.
Florida’s two-out rally in the first inning set the stage for Wilkie to step into the spotlight.
Third baseman Charla Echols singled up the middle. Julia Cottrill knocked a low ball to North Dakota shortstop Jocelyn Kirk, who errored to first. Cottrill capitalized on the opportunity and dropped anchor on second base. After an Avery Goelz walk, the pieces stood in place.
Wilkie found herself with bases loaded, two outs and a full count for the second time this season. Draped in composure, she shifted her focus to the circle and crushed a grand slam to the scoreboard and beyond.
Florida experimented with a new lineup last week, but reverted key pieces for Wednesday’s game.
Second baseman Hannah Adams returned to the lead-off position, and center fielder Cheyenne Lindsey reclaimed her “second lead-off” position in the nine-hole. Lindsey walked twice and collected Florida’s fifth and six runs on Adams and Kendyl Lindman singles.
The Fighting Hawks sported green-on-green uniforms and finished with five hits but only sent one across home.
North Dakota shifted its course off the path toward a mercy rule fate in the fourth inning. With two outs and two on, Kirk sent a wobbly grounder down the third base line and reached first on a Lindaman error. Kirk’s effort allowed third baseman Caitlyn Shumaker to score North Dakota’s lone run.
Florida head coach Tim Walton cycled four pitchers to the circle. The group collected two strikeouts a piece.
Sophomore left-hander Rylee Trlicek got the start and allowed four hits and a run through four innings. Seniors Natalie Lugo and Katie Chronister and junior Elizabeth Hightower each made brief, one inning appearances.
In its Tuesday exhibition against Team USA, Florida played five pitchers, which included freshman Haley Pittman’s inaugural appearance. Walton sang praises about his pitching staff early in the season and remains confident in them.
Florida travels to Starkville to take on Mississippi State (15-8) Friday.
Contact Rachel Slay at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter @racheljslay