Natalie Lugo

A strong start to the day was quickly halted for Florida softball. 

On Saturday at the USF-Rawlings Invitational, the Gators began the day with a 6-4 victory over Fresno State. But a few hours later, Michigan dismantled UF 11-2, giving coach Tim Walton’s group a 2-1 record heading into Sunday.

In the first game of the day, junior Natalie Lugo and freshman Rylee Trlicek were first and second on the mound for Florida, respectively, and sophomore Elizabeth Hightower finished it off. Lugo allowed no runs in her single inning of action, while Trlicek allowed three. But Hightower showed off the strongest arm Saturday as she pitched the final three innings and only gave up one run to seal it for UF. 

This entire season will likely see multiple pitchers per contest, as Walton’s team lost star pitcher Kelly Barnhill after last season to graduation. Hightower was typically Barnhill’s relief last year, typically playing the middle game of a weekend series. This season, being the leader of this group, she had a strong performance to close out of the Bulldogs.

As far as hitting, that will also be a continuous question mark for this group, after Florida’s best hitter last year, Amanda Lorenz, also graduated. The hitting came from a variety of places against Fresno State, most notably Cheyenne Lindsey, who had a home run.

It seemed that while the Gators obviously miss Lorenz and Barnhill, this 2020 squad would still find the hitting and pitching to live up to its No. 7 preseason rank.  

The second contest of the day said otherwise. 

Michigan handled the Gators thoroughly on Saturday afternoon. With four different pitchers taking the mound for Florida, none of them played well. But the worst outing of the day at that spot in orange and blue came from Lugo. She started the game and was dismantled in the first inning, giving up five runs. After that, sophomore Danni Farley, senior Katie Chronister and Hightower all took the mound and combined to give up eight more runs. 

Against a tougher team like No. 17 Michigan, Walton’s team clearly was outmatched. It simply did not have enough firepower to keep up with like UM’s Alex Storako, who pitched the entire afternoon and only gave up two runs and two hits. 

The tournament continues Sunday for UF where it will play another double-header. At noon, Florida matches up with Georgia State, before playing host to USF at 2:30 p.m. 

Follow Graham Marsh on Twitter @GrahamMarshUF. Contact him at [email protected].