The power of a pep talk should never be underestimated.
When Florida pitcher Natalie Lugo retired North Florida’s first two batters via double-play in the top of the first inning, Gators’ head coach Tim Walton approached the circle to give Lugo a few words.
“I just think my headspace and demeanor wasn’t really like ‘It’s game time’ at that time,” Lugo said. “He kind of came out and said ‘Hey, let's go. Let's get after it.’ And that's pretty much it. I just told myself, ‘let's get after it.’”
After the quick chat, the fifth-year senior from West Covina, California, went on to throw a complete-game no-hitter with four strikeouts and three walks as Florida (12-0) defeated UNF (8-3) 8-0 Wednesday night.
Lugo has done this before. The right hander accomplished the feat on Feb. 19, 2020, when she threw five scoreless innings with nine strikeouts against the Jacksonville Dolphins.
“Nothing to it as much as just letting my defense work and trusting my pitches,” Lugo said. “I have a team behind me that's gonna make outs for me.”
Offensively, the Gators relied on aggressive base-running in the first inning.
Freshman Kendra Falby hit a leadoff single and stole second base before advancing to third on a perfectly placed bunt by infielder Hannah Adams. The fifth-year senior also stole second and senior Charla Echols earned a walk to load the bases with one out.
Falby scored after freshman Reagan Walsh was hit by a pitch. Senior Cheyenne Lindsey brought in Adams with a sacrifice fly to right field, making it 2-0.
Sophomore outfielder Avery Goelz twisted her right ankle trying to beat a throw to first base in the bottom of the second inning. The stadium fell silent for a few seconds as a Gator staff member went to help her.
Goelz was able to walk to the dugout after a few seconds. She had another at-bat later in the game, but struck out. Walton said she had her ankle taped up before reapproaching the plate.
In the third, the Gators poured on five runs thanks to a three-run double by Walsh, a throwing error by UNF’s third baseman Abi Annett and a sac-fly by Sarah Longley.
Florida loaded the bases after Adams, Echols, and Skylar Wallace got on base with consecutive singles and a walk. Walsh cleared the juiced bases with a right-field double to make it 5-0. She later reached home on a throwing error by Annett, who threw to first trying to beat a Lindsey bunt.
Lindsey stole second and scored on a Longley sacrifice.
In the fourth frame, Ospreys pitcher Izzy Kelly lost control of the strike zone, throwing several high, close pitches. One eventually hit Wallace, who later stole second base. Echols followed with a walk before Walsh hit an RBI double to make it 8-0.
“They didn’t intentionally walk Charla,” Walton said. “[Walsh] made them pay and I felt like that was something we needed today.”
North Florida needed to score in the fifth to avoid a dreaded run-rule. Ospreys catcher Paige Pfent got on base with a walk, but Lugo managed to close the game by retiring the next three batters.
The Gators, who stole four bases, earned their fifth run-rule win of the season. Several players had strong performances. Walsh hit two doubles in her two at-bats and tallied five RBIs, bringing her season total to 14.Adams and Wallace also impressed, scoring two runs each.
Florida is back in action Friday at the UCF Knights Classic. UF hopes to remain undefeated and will face the DePaul Blue Demons at 8:30 p.m. at the UCF Softball Complex in Orlando.
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.