With Florida up 2-1 in the sixth inning, sophomore Avery Goelz stared down Tennessee pitcher Erin Edmoundson from the batter’s box, looking for a little run insurance.
The Gators took the lead in the previous frame, but were looking for additional offense to dismay the dangerous Volunteer batting order that had crippled them all weekend.
Short memory was key for Goelz and the Gators, as shaking off two tough results to overcome UT in game three had to come with some self-centering.
“I try not to let my last at-bat affect me too much,” Goelz said. “I learn from it, but I don’t let it go into my next at-bat.”
On the first pitch, the sophomore first baseman launched a ball over the left-field wall for her second-career home run, giving UF the cushy, two-run advantage it needed to close out the win.
No. 6 UF (27-5, 5-4 SEC) avoided a sweep from No. 15 Tennessee (22-9, 5-3 SEC) in a 4-1 bounceback win. Heading into Sunday hitting 9-48 as a team in the series, Florida’s bats were made of fire, with the Gators hitting .333 in the finale victory.
Four different Gators – shortstop Skylar Wallace, designated player Reagan Walsh, right fielder Cheyenne Lindsey and Goelz – recorded multi-hit games to lead Florida at the plate.
Head coach Tim Walton attributed his team’s offensive improvement to repetition in the second game facing UT’s Edmoundson. The Volunteers stellar senior shut out UF Friday night, but patience and familiarity were key for figuring out how to deal with her.
“I think it was just our mindset for this game,” Wallace said. “We came out, we talked about the beginning of the game just to control what we can control and just do what we can do.”
Defensively, the Gators used a stellar senior right-handed committee of senior Elizabeth Hightower and fifth-year Natalie Lugo in relief to pick up the win. Hightower went four and 1/3 innings, giving up two hits and a lone earned run as the starter. Lugo followed and kept UT at bay – 22 of her 32 pitches thrown were strikes.
UF shined late in the game with runners in scoring position after going without a hit in the game’s first four opportunities. Leaving nine base runners stranded in total, doing damage with two strikes and two outs was the trend of the day.
Tennessee struck first in the second inning. Sophomore catcher Rylie West launched a Hightower pitch deep into left field and over the wall to give the Volunteers a 1-0 advantage, their only run of the game.
It wouldn’t take long for UF to scratch the tying run, however. In the bottom of the third, Wallace got things started, getting hit by a pitch and stealing second. The freshman Walsh reached her bat out and poked a single to right to follow.
With runners at the corners and the Gators needing to capitalize on good offense, Lindsey answered the call, slapping one through the gap into left field and scoring Wallace’s tying run from third.
In the fifth, Walsh again came up big. Her single up the middle again scored Wallace. The junior would cross home plate three times on the day, taking advantage of a season-high three stolen bases.
Later in the sixth, with a threat to blow the game open for UF, Goelz smacked her shot to make it a two-run lead for Florida. Four batters later, after Wallace drew a walk, it was Echols’ turn to spark the Gators.
Her RBI-double to center provided the nail in Tennessee's coffin for a final score of 4-1. UF avoided a potential first-ever Volunteer sweep in Gainesville.
Florida adds another game to its non-conference home slate Wednesday against Central Florida. First pitch is set for 6 p.m., and the game will stream on SEC Network +.
Contact Caleb Wiegandt at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @CalebWiegandt.