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Saturday, May 08, 2021

Gators head south to clash with Knights

Florida claims a 21-4 record against Central Florida

<p>Outfielder Katie Kissler rounds second base Feb. 20 against Charlotte. </p>

Outfielder Katie Kissler rounds second base Feb. 20 against Charlotte.

Florida heads south on Interstate 75 to take on Central Florida Wednesday. 

The No. 5 Gators (21-2) enter the matchup after a series sweep against Mississippi State in Starkville. No. 22 Central Florida (19-6) picked up a win in the last of a three-game series against South Carolina Sunday. 

Florida and UCF share four previous opponents in New Mexico State, McNeese State, North Florida and Kennesaw State. Florida met each team for single games and secured dubs over all of them. The Knights saw each team three times and also claimed victory over each opponent but gave away a game to UNF and Kennesaw State, respectively.  

Central Florida’s pitching staff features stand-out seniors Alea White and Gianna Mancha. White deals consistent heat with a 10-1 record in the circle. She held opponents to a .197 batting average through 72 innings pitched. Mancha exhibits similar success with her 8-3 record and .167 opponent batting average. 

“They throw to all spots in the zone,” Florida head coach Tim Walton said. “There’s not a lot of predictability with them… it’ll be a challenge.” 

In their 2018 matchup, White shutout the Gators in a 1-0 win in Orlando. 

“We have not played very well on a Wednesday in Orlando,” Walton said. “I don't know what our overall record is or what my overall record is as a head coach, but I can tell you that we've lost more games in Orlando than I can remember winning.” 

Walton feels like his failures outweigh his successes, but history begs to differ. 

Florida boasts a 21-4 record against the Knights. Through 13 Wednesday faceoffs, Florida took 11 wins. However, with half of its losses in Orlando, it’s understandable that Walton tips the scale in UCF’s favor. 

Florida junior pitcher Elizabeth Hightower tabbed SEC Pitcher of the Week for the second time this season. Hightower extended her career-long, scoreless inning streak to 19.1 after a pair of shutouts against Mississippi State. The performance broke her previous 13.1 inning streak set earlier this season. 

“Everything's just coming together for her,” first baseman Kendyl Lindaman said. “I feel like she’s still got more too… we’re just scratching the surface, which is really exciting.” 

First pitch will fly at 6 p.m. The game will broadcast on ESPN+ and ESPN 98.1 FM.

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Contact Rachel Slay at rslay@gmail.com and follow her on Twitter @racheljslay

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