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Monday, September 20, 2021

Florida softball to confront Bulldogs in conference contest

The Gators last met the Bulldogs two years ago

<p>Third baseman Charla Echols swings through a pitch against Louisville on Feb. 27</p>

Third baseman Charla Echols swings through a pitch against Louisville on Feb. 27

The Gators haven’t gone toe-to-toe with Georgia for two years.

No. 5 Florida heads to Athens, Georgia, Saturday to meet the No. 20 Georgia Bulldogs in a three-game SEC series. They last met in 2018 during the NCAA Women’s College World Series. Florida took the victory and marked a 39-28 all-time record against the Bulldogs. 

The Bulldogs boast a 22-5 record after they split their first six SEC games. Georgia dropped a game to Missouri during conference play opening weekend as well as two to Ole Miss last weekend. 

Each team exhibits similar prowess from the pitcher’s circle. Florida’s Elizabeth Hightower and Natalie Lugo maintain 1.07 and 1.61 ERAs, respectively. The pair accounts for 19 wins and just two losses. Hightower ties for third in the SEC for lowest opponent batting average (.143). 

Georgia’s right-handed ace Mary Wilson Avant holds an 11-2 record with a 1.34 ERA through 83.1 innings pitched. 

Offensively, the Bulldogs’ roster features the explosive Laney Fincher, who leads the team with a .433 batting average. Fincher is Georgia’s most prominent threat offensively as she also leads the team in RBIs, doubles and home runs. A young trio of sluggers follows closely: sophomore Jaiden Fields (.358), freshman Jayda Kearney (.328) and freshman Sydney Chambley (.320). 

The Gators shine just as brightly at the plate with Hannah Adams’ .472 average and 13-game hit-streak. Catcher Julia Cottril, center fielder Cheyenne Lindsey and first baseman Kendyl Lindaman also tote averages above .300.

The Gators face the Bulldogs in Jack Turner Stadium. Florida head coach Tim Walton noted the field’s dimensions and the challenge they pose. 

At 190 feet, the left and right field fences sit 10 feet closer to home plate than at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium in Gainesville. The short field results in outfielders over-playing balls and not accounting for the smaller distance, Walton said. 

Georgia, accustomed to its home field dimensions, will surely swing away in the conference contest.

“They’re always aggressive. They just go after you,” Walton said. “It’s gonna be a gritty weekend for us for sure.” 

First pitch flies at 8 p.m. Saturday and will broadcast on ESPN. 

Contact Rachel Slay at rslay@alligator.org and follow her on Twitter @racheljslay

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