The Florida softball team started slow offensively. But, as the Gators have proved many times this season, they are never out of a game.
Two late-inning blasts from fifth-year senior Kendyl Lindaman and junior Charla Echols lifted the Florida softball team over the Mississippi State Bulldogs 6-2 Thursday.
The Gators entered the SEC tournament as the No. 1 seed after they earned co-SEC regular season championship honors with a season-ending sweep of Texas A&M.
After a first-round bye, the Gators drew a matchup with the No. 9 seed Mississippi State Bulldogs to open the postseason.
Florida dominated their regular-season series against Miss St. earlier this March. The Gators swept the weekend against the Bulldogs, scoring 18 runs across three games while giving up none.
Elizabeth Hightower started in the circle for Florida Thursday. She tossed two strikeouts in the first inning, but Bulldog Jackie McKenna brought the first runs of the game an inning later. The catcher shot a double down the left field line to give Miss St. an early 2-0 lead.
The Gators put a runner on base each inning against the Bulldogs, but couldn’t bring anyone home until the fifth inning.
With two runners on and a full count, Lindaman launched a moonball to right field and over the wall to give Florida a 3-2 lead and finally flip the momentum.
Natalie Lugo entered the game to pitch for the Gators in the fifth inning. Lugo closed out the last three innings for Florida and allowed only one hit.
Florida carried a one-run lead into the sixth, but still wanted a little insurance. Enter Charla Echols.
The star third baseman stepped to the plate to face pitcher Alyssa Loza, who just entered the game for Miss St. On the second pitch she saw, Echols took a confident swing and smashed a three-run dagger for the Gators to stretch the lead to 6-2.
A three up and three down top of the seventh from Lugo and the Gators defense sealed the win, moving the squad to the semifinals and one step closer to the tournament crown.
Florida awaits the winner of No. 4 seed Missouri and No. 5 seed LSU’s Thursday game. The Gators’ semifinal will get started at 4 p.m. eastern time Friday and broadcast on ESPN 2.
Contact Joseph Henry at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @Josephhenry2424
Joseph Henry is a fourth-year sports journalism major and is the Alligator's sports editor. He previously worked as senior news director, assistant sports editor, men's basketball beat reporter, volleyball beat reporter and golf beat reporter. He enjoys sitting down to watch a movie as often as possible, collecting vinyl and drinking Dr. Pepper.