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Thursday, February 02, 2023

Florida ends perfect weekend with 12-0 win over USF

Elizabeth Hightower’s stellar pitching shutout the Bulls Sunday afternoon

<p>Florida&#x27;s Elizabeth Hightower pitches against Louisville on February 27, 2021. The senior shutout USF Sunday afternoon.</p><p></p>

Florida's Elizabeth Hightower pitches against Louisville on February 27, 2021. The senior shutout USF Sunday afternoon.

Florida senior Elizabeth Hightower confidently stood at the pitcher’s mound and took a calming breath at the bottom of the fourth inning.

She unleashed a powerful pitch to waiting South Florida batter Madison Epperson, who looked to move her teammates around the diamond. It was a textbook strikeout and Hightower snuffed out any chance for the Bulls to get on the board as the inning came to a close.

Hightower ended the weekend giving up a single run through four games and was a major factor in No. 5 Florida's (4-0) 12-0 win over the Bulls (3-1)  at the USF Invitational. Both teams entered the match up following impressive victories over No. 16 Michigan Saturday.

“Anytime you do something for the first time and you go 4-0 it's really hard to be overcritical,” head coach Tim Walton said. “I definitely think we're gonna play better and get better.”

USF took a different approach to pitching compared to their in-state opponents Sunday afternoon in Tampa, Florida. The Bulls utilized three different pitchers in senior Erin Poepping,  junior Camryn Dolby and sophomore Lexie Kopko through the first three innings in an attempt to keep Florida hitters off balance.

 The Gators’ approach contrasted USF’s as they stuck with Hightower for a majority of the first stretch of the game. This proved to be the difference-maker as Florida's stifling defensive clinched its third shutout of the season. 

The second inning showcased the scoring capabilities of Florida, bringing in six runs and two hits. USF struggled to keep Florida in check as it continued walking numerous Florida hitters. 

Following an anti-climactic three-minute rain delay, redshirt junior Skylar Wallace was walked by Poepping. Florida freshman Kendra Falby was forced home to score and infielder Hannah Adams was moved into prime scoring position on third base.

Senior Charla Echols launched a long-distance ball down centerfield that brought Wallace and Adams home to score. Freshman Reagan Walsh capped off the impressive scoring run with a single down the right foul line, bringing in Echols. 

Florida continued its dominance on the diamond, scoring five runs in the seventh inning to definitively keep the game out of the Bulls’ reach. Notably, freshman Cali Decker logged her first collegiate hit in the seventh inning. 

Walton said after the game that he was happy to see pitching be one of the strongest points for the team this weekend. He was pleased with the innings junior pitcher Rylee Trilcek was able to provide at the tail end of the game against USF.

“The innings that Rylee gave us today, I think those are easy to overlook,” he said. “She did a really nice job really proud and happy for her.”

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Now, the Gators turn their attention to Jacksonville, as they face the Dolphins on the road Feb. 15 at 6 p.m. The two teams will then travel to Gainesville the next day for Florida’s first home game of the season at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium.

UF’s home game against the Dolphins Feb. 16 will begin at 6 p.m. and can be streamed on SEC Network.

Contact Brenda Bogle at Follow her on Twitter @bogle_brenda.

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Brenda Bogle

Brenda Bogle is a UF journalism senior with a specialization in sports and media. She joined The Alligator in the Fall of 2021.

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