No Bull: Hightower again no-hits South Florida for Gators' Gainesville Regional win
The first career no-hitter from Elizabeth Hightower and a six-run seventh inning lifted No. 4 Florida to its sixth consecutive win over South Florida this season.
The Gators (45-9) went 3-0 in the Gainesville Regional with their 8-0 victory Sunday at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium, advancing to the Super Regionals next week. Sarah Longley (grand slam), Cheyenne Lindsey and Julia Cottrill all homered, as UF finished with double-digit hits (10).
“Julia Cottrill obviously with an individual performance that was player-of-the-game worthy. She was awesome,” Florida coach Tim Walton said. “I’m really, really proud of Elizabeth. To be able to come into this kind of game and throw a no-hitter, I thought that was outstanding. Her stuff was really good. I thought it was even better today than Friday.”
Hightower (18-5) tossed her sixth complete game shutout of the year and gave up no hits against the Bulls (31-19) for the second time in three days. She tied her career high with 10 strikeouts Sunday and had four 1-2-3 frames in a row.
“My defense saved me so many times for me to actually achieve this no-hitter,” Hightower said. “Hannah (Adams) made an amazing play, just a lot of good defensive outs. Once I finally figured my change-up out later in the game, I kind of settled in and took it from there.”
After two 1-2-3 innings from USF pitcher Georgina Corrick (24-9), Florida threatened to score with Baylee Goddard advancing to third and Hannah Adams stealing second. However, Corrick struck out Emily Wilkie looking to get out of the jam.
UF broke through in the fourth with leadoff singles from Charla Echols and Kendly Lindaman. Cottrill then doubled to left field to bring home Echols for the Gators’ first run, though they left three runners stranded.
Cottrill launched a solo shot to left field two innings later, her second home run in four games and fifth of the season.
“It felt really good,” Cottrill said of her performance. “I’ve been struggling a little bit and relying on people to pick me up. So to be able to pick up my teammates was a great feeling.”
Florida again loaded the bases in the sixth with three straight singles from Goddard, Longley and Lindsey, but couldn’t capitalize on the scoring opportunity. Corrick struck out nine Gators and allowed eight hits, three runs and two walks in six innings pitched.
“Their pitcher was really good. You could see that, you could feel that,” Walton said. “It was a grind. It wasn’t easy. You look at the score today, that wasn’t a runaway at all. It was a tough, tough, tough game. … We just found a way to get a couple nice hits late in the game when we needed it.”
UF ran up the score in the seventh on Bulls reliever Vivian Ponn with Jaimie Hoover’s groundout that plated pinch-runner Katie Kistler, a grand slam from Longley and Lindsey’s solo shot.
Gators pitching allowed only three hits in their three games and outscored teams 19-0.
Florida hosts the Super Regionals starting Friday and will face SEC East rival Georgia (32-21), the winner of the Athens Regional, at 5 p.m.
At Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium
Florida 1, South Florida 0
South Alabama 2, Baylor 0
Florida 10, USA 0
South Florida 5, Baylor 0, Baylor eliminated
USF 1, USA 0, South Alabama eliminated
Final: Florida 8, USF 0, UF advances
Gainesville Super Regional
At Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium
(Best of three)
Friday: Georgia (32-21) vs. Florida (45-9), 5 p.m., ESPNU
Saturday: Georgia vs. Florida, 12 p.m., ESPN
If-necessary game: 12 p.m. Sunday, ESPN
Radio: AM-850, 98.1-FM
Tickets: Gators Ticket Office at 352-375-4683