No. 5 Gators roll past No. 16 Seminoles, 5-0
It's a little early in the season for a player to get choked up over a win, but Florida's Elizabeth Hightower just couldn't help herself Friday.
It wasn't just that she pitched a one-hitter or that the 5-0 win was her fourth shutout of the season. It was that the team with zero runs was Florida State.
Who: No. 5 Florida (14-0) vs. No. 16 Florida State (10-4)
Where: Joanne Graf Field, Tallahassee
When: 6 p.m.
Radio: AM-850, 98.1-FM
Live stream: ACC Network Extra
"After the game she had tears in her eyes," UF coach Tim Walton said. "And why did she have tears in her eyes? Her family grew up in the Tallahassee area.
"That was a big moment for her. That was a life-changing kind of moment."
That might have been overstating a bit, but there's no doubt Hightower's performance made for a pleasant afternoon for fans at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium.
"She pitched her butt off," third baseman Charla Echols said.
The fifth-ranked Gators improved to 14-0, while No. 16 FSU dropped to 10-4. They'll meet again Saturday night in Tallahassee.
Echols made Hightower's afternoon a little easier with a solo home run in the fourth inning. That broke up the pitching duel between Hightower and Caylan Arnold.
Danielle Watson relieved Arnold in the fifth and got two outs. Then Cheyenne Lindsey got on with a bunt single and Hannah Adams walked. Up came Kendyl Lindaman, who blasted a home run to left field to make it 4-0.
"We deserved to win," Walton said. "Let's be honest. Some games you don't deserve to win and you figure out a way. Other games you do deserve to win and you don't."
A couple of nice catches by left fielder Jamie Hoover preserved the shutout for Hightower, who didn't give up a hit until the sixth inning. That's when Walton visited the pitcher's circle to remind her not to lose focus.
"A shutout is just as important," he told her.
Hightower obliged, much to the delight of her family. They were visiting from Monticello, where Hightower grew up. Her father went to FSU and was a tried-and-true Seminole.
"When I committed to Florida, we switched out all our gear," Hightower said.
As for the early-season tears Friday, she said she couldn't help it.
"Just being from that area," Hightower said. "It was really fun the whole time. That was a big part of my season, and just having the defense work behind me like they did took a lot of pressure off me.
"That made the game fun and easy."