Freshman phenom pitcher Lexie Delbrey earned her first career SEC Freshman of the Week honor recently. The accolade didn’t come easy, and neither did Florida’s battle with Louisville.
The Bainbridge, Georgia, native found herself in a handful of jams early against UofL. Cardinal baserunners threatened to spoil the perfect, blue-skied day in Gainesville.
Fifth-year senior Natalie Lugo already pitched a complete-game shutout earlier Saturday, but now her role was to remind Delbrey of who she is.
“She’s special.” Lugo agreed. “She just gets a little excited sometimes.”
Delbrey’s catcher, sophomore Emily Wilkie, concurred.
“She’s a stud,” Wilkie said.
Delbrey’s inning-ending punchout streak was a big part of one of No. 4 Florida’s (9-0) two wins Saturday in a T-Mobile Tournament doubleheader with Villanova and Louisville. In a 107-pitch outing, she earned the win giving up only two hits and recording eight strikeouts.
Three of the six innings in the Louisville game ended with Delbrey Ks. They happened when UF needed them most, leaving eight Cardinal runners on base in the game.
Fifth-year senior Hannah Adams led the Gators at the plate Saturday, recording five hits and two RBIs in the two combined games. Freshman Kendra Falby went 3-6 in the contests to score three runs and maintain Florida’s perfect record.
The Gators spread the offense around evenly and early in game one against the Wildcats (3-6). Eight hits were recorded by six different Florida batters.
Falby drew a walk and stole second base to leadoff, advancing to third on an ensuing Adams bunt for a single. With runners at the corners, Florida went for the double steal. Villanova chose to get Adams out at second, allowing Falby to cross the plate and give Florida a one-run lead.
Senior Charla Echols followed closely after, recording an RBI single to bring home base runner Skylar Wallace.
Lugo was masterful in her first complete game, recording five strikeouts and only giving up two hits in her third win of the young season. The Wildcats never threatened the lead as a result, posting a .087 team batting average after several forced groundouts.
Confidence was a key ingredient to Lugo’s premier day in the circle. The fifth-year senior knew she could throw grounders at the defense behind her to get the outs they needed.
“I always feel confident in our defense, and I know I have one of the best defenses out there,” Lugo said.
Adams and Wallace kept the run frenzy going in the second inning, Adams with a single and Wallace with a pitch hitting her on the shoulder. That led to Echols reaching first on an infield flyball error by Villanova shortstop Megan Kern, scoring both runners and leaving it at a 4-0 ballgame.
Game two versus Louisville (6-2) started out similarly but ended with a little more excitement.
Falby whacked a leadoff triple to deep center in the bottom of the first, leading to her score after a sacrifice fly from Adams to make it 1-0.
Florida threatened to blow the game open in the fourth frame. Senior Cheyenne Lindsey drew a walk, and Wilkie’s double to center brought the base runner sprinting home. Momentum was on the Gators’ side.
“I just felt the team was with me,” Wilkie said. “After that [double], we all had each other’s backs and just kept going.
Kistler did the same two batters later, trading places with Wilkie to make it 3-0. Falby was walked, and Adams singled to score Kistler.
Louisville had a successful fifth inning that could have gone a lot worse for the Gators. UofL graduate student Carmyn Greenwood’s single scored baserunner Jenna Servi to put the Cards’ lone run on the board. Delbrey caught two of the next three batters looking to close the inning.
By the end of the next frame, however, the Cards’ wheels fell off while the Gators’ engine started firing.
Falby singled to score Goelz, and another bunt base hit from Adams turned into an unearned run after Louisville catcher Kendall Smith made a throwing error.
With Cardinal hopes dashed, Wallace, Echols and Walsh all swatted in runs to mercifully end the game in a sixth-inning run rule, 9-1.
The Gators conclude the T-Mobile Tournament Sunday against Florida A&M. First pitch is set for 2 p.m. from Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium.
Contact Caleb Wiegandt at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @CalebWiegandt.