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UF Softball: No. 6 Florida Clinches Series Over No. 9 Kentucky

Natalie Lugo only allowed two hits and one run through five innings of work in the Gators series clinching win.
Photo by Anna Carrington

Courtesy of University Athletic Association

BY HERB BROOKS

The sixth-ranked Gators defeated No. 9 Kentucky, 3-1, in game two to clinch the series Saturday afternoon at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium. Natalie Lugo (4-0), Katie Chronister, and Elizabeth Hightower combined to hold UK to just three hits in the contest.

The Gators (17-1, 2-0 SEC) outhit the Wildcats (19-2, 0-2 SEC) seven to three and were able to take advantage of three defensive errors by UK to take the series. Julia Cottrill (2-for-3) tallied a multi-hit performance, while five additional Gators picked up one hit each.

The scoring started in the top of the 2nd inning; Wildcats starting pitcher Grace Baalman (4-1) helped herself out as the right-handed hurler sent the 1-0 offering from Lugo over the left field wall for a solo home run to give Kentucky a 1-0 lead. Lugo didn’t waiver, bouncing back to strike out Emmy Blane to finish the inning.

Florida responded in the home half of the 2nd to take the 3-1 lead with a trio of unearned runs. Avery Goelz (1-for-3) led the rally with a single to right field, and Cottrill followed up with a one-out double off the center field wall to put runners on second and third.

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Sarah Longley extended the inning and loaded the bases with a five-pitch walk. With the bases loaded, Jaimie Hoover reached on a fielder’s choice where Kentucky was able to make the throw from shortstop to home to retire Goelz.

The Gators took the lead when Cheyenne Lindsey sent a dribbler to Lauren Johnson at second base, which went through her legs and allowed Cottrill and Longley to score.

Hannah Adams (1-for-3) plated the third and final run of the frame with her RBI single through the left side that scored Hoover from third.

After the solo home run in the 2nd, Lugo settled in to retire the next 10 Kentucky batters before being relieved by Katie Chronister in the 6th inning. Kentucky managed to reach on an error, a single, and a walk to load the bases with two outs before Elizabeth Hightower entered the game.

Hightower pitched out of the jam as she forced Autumn Humes to fly out to Hoover in left field on the 3-2 offering.

The Monticello, Fla. native went on to retire the next three Kentucky batters in the 7th inning to secure her second save of the season.

The Gators and Wildcats will close out SEC Opening Weekend and finish the series Sunday at 1 p.m. on the SEC Network +.

Notable Notes:

  • The Gators improved their all-time series record against the Wildcats to 54-14, 28-6 when playing at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium.
    • The program also improved to 7-1 against UK when playing during SEC Opening Weekend.
    • The win is the sixth consecutive over Kentucky with the last loss occurring April 15, 2017 in Lexington, Ky.
    • UF improved to 3-1 against teams ranked inside the Top 25.
  • Lugo, Chronister, and Hightower held one of the most potent lineups in the country to just three hits for the second time this series.
    • The Gators haven’t allowed more than five hits in 17 of the 18 games played so far this season.
      • The team is giving up an average of only 3.22 hits per game, which ranks third in the nation.
  • Cottrill picked up her second multi-hit game of the season after going 2-for-3 with a double.
  • The Gators fell behind 0-1 to Kentucky for the second straight game, but have rallied both times to win 3-1.
    • So far this season, Florida has rallied to win six times after being down only one run to opponents.
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