By Jim Harvin, Correspondent
The fourth-ranked Florida softball team started off well with leadoff batter Amanda Lorenz opening the game with a stand-up triple off the left field fence.
Lorenz, however, never made it the last 60 feet to score a run Saturday, and the Gators would only get two more hits the rest of the way while the No. 7 Tennessee Volunteers played long ball with three solo home runs en route to a 3-0 win behind a complete-game, three-hitter from right-hander Ashley Rogers.
Tennessee clinched the opening series of SEC play heading into Sunday’s finale at noon before a Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium crowd of 1,828. The Vols improved to 18-2, 2-0 SEC while UF slipped to 21-4, 0-2.
“Her pitches were just up a little bit,” UF coach Tim Walton said of starter Natalie Lugo, who fell to 6-2 on the season after giving up solo homers to Tennessee’s Aubrey Leach, Haley Bearden and Gracie Osbron.
Lugo was pulled after giving up her third homer of the game to lead off the Vols’ third inning and replaced by freshman Elizabeth Hightower, who ended up pitching a solid five innings, allowing just two hits while striking out six UT batters.
“I think you saw the outcome of that, when you leave that pitch up, especially a team showing as much power as they are,” Walton said. “Overall, Elizabeth pitched well in relief. Natalie just wasn’t a great matchup today.”
Rogers, on the other hand, was at her best.
After starting Friday’s series opener and lasting just one-third of an inning before being replaced, she was in charge in game two, limiting the Gators to just three hits while tossing a complete-game shutout to improve to 6-0 on the season.
“I think that we had a few opportunities, and we just have to get a lead going for our pitchers,” said Lorenz, who leads the Gators with a .446 batting average. “Tennessee is playing great; kudos to them. They’ve been hitting the ball really well.
“We had a few opportunities and had a few balls that we hit hard, just right at people unfortunately.”
UF will be looking to close out the series with a win while the Vols will be going for the sweep. Walton noted that if Florida could have gotten a run or two in the first inning to take the early lead, the outcome might have been different.
“The same thing yesterday,” Walton said. “We had the bases loaded and one out with an opportunity to score a run some way, somehow. We didn’t. At the end of the day, it is about that. Put a little bit of pressure on somebody and take a little pressure off whoever is feeling pressure in our dugout. That’s the name of the game, being able to score early and often and change the swings, free them up a little bit.”
Who: No. 7 Tennessee (18-2, 2-0 SEC) vs. No. 4 Florida (21-4, 0-2)
When: 12 p.m.
Where: Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium
Online: SEC Network