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Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Gators’ offense lets loose to beat Jacksonville via run rule

Florida beat the Dolphins 13-1 Monday to improve to 5-0

<p>Charla Echols and Elizabeth Hightower during a game against Florida State March 3, 2021.</p>

Charla Echols and Elizabeth Hightower during a game against Florida State March 3, 2021.

Freshman Reagan Walsh will never forget her first home run as a Florida Gator. 

The infielder from Redondo Beach, California, had contrasting outcomes after two tries at the plate. She lined out to the right field in the bottom of the second and then hit a two-run single the following inning. 

She waited patiently at the batter’s box for a delivery from Jacksonville pitcher Skylar Whitty with a 1-1 count in the bottom of the fourth inning. Fate was on her side. 

Walsh hit a grand slam to center field to give Florida a substantial 11-0 lead. She finished the game with six RBIs — a task no other Gator has accomplished since March 2019.

Her performance was crucial in Florida’s 13-1 win over the Dolphins Tuesday. The Gators forced a run rule, which applies if a team is ahead by eight or more runs after five innings and finishes the game early. 

The Gators took the lead in the first inning thanks to a sacrifice fly by first baseman Skylar Wallace, which brought in freshman Kendra Falby from third. Before scoring, Falby stole second base, extending her base-stealing streak to five games.

Florida’s offense kept rolling in the third inning when third baseman Charla Echols hit a two-run double with the bases loaded, bringing in sophomore Avery Goelz and Falby. An at-bat later, Walsh emptied the bases with a single to right field to increase the Gators’ lead to five. 

Three runs were needed to end the game via the run rule. Florida added eight instead. 

Consecutive hits by Goelz, Falby and Hannah Adams loaded the bases. Goelz would end up scoring on a Wallace hit by pitch. Echols singled to center field to bring in Falby, who scored her third run of the game. Walsh’s grand slam and a two-run homer by Goelz made it 13-0.

In the bottom of the fifth, the Dolphins loaded the bases with one out. They needed five runs to stay alive in the game, but fell short. Jacksonville did get a single run on the board on a failed double play attempt. UF pitcher Marissa Messiemore was able to limit the damage, however, by striking out JU’s Kailey Harrigan. 

Starting pitcher Natalie Lugo got her first win of the year after holding Jacksonville’s bats to only three hits in four innings. The right-handed pitcher struck out four and allowed one walk. Mesiemore allowed a single, a walk and an unearned run in one inning. 

Offensively, the Gators had more than 10 hits for the third time this season and scored more than 10 runs for the second consecutive game.

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Florida will be back in action Wednesday at 6 p.m. when it hosts the second game against the Dolphins at the Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium. The game will be broadcast on the SEC network.

Contact Jose Tovar at Find him on Twitter @Jose___Tovar  

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Jose Tovar

Jose Tovar is a fourth-year journalism student at the University of Florida specializing in sports and media. He has covered softball and soccer as a beat writer and aspires to work in the sports media industry.

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