Gators one win away from Super Regionals after shutting out South Alabama

Zach Abolverdi
Gator Sports

Florida remained undefeated Saturday in the Gainesville Regional and against South Alabama. 

No. 4 UF shut out the Jaguars, 10-0, behind two big hits from Charla Echols, a pair of three-run innings and Natalie Lugo’s 11 strikeouts, a season high. It marked the Gators’ third victory in program history over South Alabama (31-20) and put them one win away from advancing to the Super Regionals.

Florida (44-9) loaded the bases in the first when Jaimie Hoover hit a two-RBI single to shortstop, plating Hannah Adams and Emily Wilkie. Echols also had a rare strikeout in her first at-bat. 

"She was trying to win the game in the first inning and she swung at a bad pitch. Rarely does she do that," UF coach Tim Walton said of Echols. "She made up for it the next at-bat, and then the next."

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Florida's Charla Echols hit her 15th home run of the season Saturday against South Alabama in the NCAA Gainesville Regional at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium. [File]

Two innings later, Echols tacked on a third run with a leadoff homer to right field. It was her team-high 15th home run of the season and fourth in the last eight games. 

"The first at-bat she got me pretty good," Echols said of South Alabama pitcher Olivia Lackie. "I didn't want to let her get me twice. I was just trying to compete a little better than I did the first at-bat and make something happen. I got something inside and saw it well."

Lugo retired 12 of the first 13 batters faced, including five strikeouts in a row, and surpassed her previous season high of seven Ks on Feb. 19 against Georgia Southern. Lugo pitched a complete game Saturday and struck out 11 Jaguars, allowing just two hits and two walks. 

"She was very unpredictable. Her change-up was really good, her rise was good, her curve location was really good," Walton said of Lugo. "She commanded the zone all day long, did a good job of getting plenty of ground balls and obviously she struck out a bunch. Really, really proud of the way she threw the ball. The most important part for me is the shutout."

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Echols connected again in the fifth with her double to right field, followed by a single from Kendyl Lindaman. Kali Reis pinch ran for Lindaman and scored Florida’s fourth run when Lackie walked Baylee Goddard with the bases loaded. 

The Gators added three insurance runs in the sixth with Wilkie’s single through the left side to plate Cheyenne Lindsey, Adams scoring on Echols’ foul out and Julia Cottrill’s single up the middle to bring home Katie Kristler. 

Lackie posted three strikeouts and allowed eight hits, seven runs and five walks in 6.0 innings pitched. South Alabama’s Jenna Hardy replaced Lackie in the seventh and gave up three more runs, with Lindsey’s groundout plating Goddard and another Lindaman single scoring Adams and Wilkie.

UF had just four hits through five innings, but totaled seven in the last two. 

"It's been the story of our season," Walton said. "It's one of those confidence things. When the runs start to get up on the board, freedom starts to happen. We start to swing it better and we start to become more confident."

Florida again faces South Florida (31-18), the team it defeated Friday. The Bulls advanced through the losers bracket to take on the Gators at noon Sunday. If necessary, another game will be played at 2:30 p.m. Sunday to decide the Gainesville Regional.

Gainesville Regional

At Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium

Friday

Florida 1, South Florida 0

South Alabama 2, Baylor 0

Saturday

Florida 10, USA 0

South Florida 5, Baylor 0, Baylor eliminated

USF 1, USA 0, South Alabama eliminated

Sunday

Final, 12 p.m., Florida (44-9) vs. USF (31-18)

If-necessary game, 2:30 p.m.

TV: ESPN family of channels. 

Radio: AM-850, 98.1-FM

Tickets: Gators Ticket Office at 352-375-4683