By Zach Abolverdi, Correspondent
The No. 8 Florida softball team finally got the monkey of its back Saturday.
The Gators won their first SEC series of the season with an 8-0 win over No. 14 Arkansas, their 29th consecutive win against the Razorbacks and second straight shutout at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium. Freshman Elizabeth Hightower pitched the first complete-game shutout of her career.
“Getting a Saturday win was big, something we haven’t had,” UF coach Tim Walton said. “Elizabeth stepped up and really pitched a nice game. We’ve been playing fine. We just haven’t been winning and we haven’t been getting a lot of hits.”
That wasn’t an issue Saturday.
The Gators (31-9, 5-6 SEC) found their groove with 11 hits and racked up their most runs in an SEC game this season. They also tied their season-high with three home runs and scored in each of the five innings.
“You saw everybody in the order hitting and putting good swings on the ball,” said catcher Kendyl Lindaman, who went 3-for-3. “I think we just build off each other every inning, and scoring those runs right away is huge. Getting up on a team lowers their confidence, but it also increases ours.”
After defeating Arkansas 3-0 in the series opener, the Gators matched their Friday scoring output in the first inning.
Lindaman launched a three-run homer to left center field, scoring Jade Caraway and Amanda Lorenz. Lorenz then hit a solo shot to right field in her second at-bat, marking the senior’s first home run since March 10 against Tennessee.
Jaimie Hoover connected on her fifth homer of the season in the bottom of the third, sending a deep drive to left field that landed on top of the batting cage. After Hannah Sipos scored on a wild pitch, the Gators added two more runs on singles by Jordan Roberts and Jordan Matthews.
“Being able to come out and get some big hits felt good,” Walton said. “I don’t think (Arkansas pitcher) Mary Haff is healthy, if you really ask me the truth. That’s not the same kid I’ve saw a couple different times this year on TV.
“I’m not taking anything away from our hitters, but she didn’t look very sharp with the change-up or rise ball, which is her two featured pitches.”
Hightower, meanwhile, put together a strong performance in the circle. She finished with six strikeouts, allowing only three hits and two walks.
“There wasn’t anything spectacular about it, but I thought overall she did a good job,” Walton said of Hightower. “She’s a freshman, so what do I expect out of a freshman? Just give us a chance to win the game, and she did that. She overcame a couple hits and a couple of her own mistakes.”
With the series win under their belt, the Gators now look to improve to .500 in SEC play by sweeping Arkansas. Florida will play the Razorbacks on Sunday at 1 p.m. The game will be televised on ESPN2.
“We don’t take winning for granted,” Walton said. “A lot of people think winning is easy and it’s something that just happens. It doesn’t, especially when you look at the top-25 teams and over half of them are in this league. They’re all really good.
“So it is nice to get the two-game W, but the two shutouts is a good feeling. You shut people out, that’s the best hitter in our lineup. Now let’s figure out a way to square up tomorrow and come out of here with a sweep.”