No. 4 Florida grinds out four wins to stay unbeaten over weekend at UCF softball classic
In a weekend that presented the fourth-ranked Gators (16-0) with the most adversity they've seen so far this season, Florida softball remained unbeaten at the Knights Classic from the UCF Softball Complex after picking up wins over DePaul, Oakland, James Madison and UCF.
Florida beat DePaul 11-3 in five innings on Friday night before topping Oakland 6-1 on Saturday night.
The Gators went on to play all day on Sunday after beating James Madison 6-4 in a two and a half hour affair, followed by a drawn out 12-11 win over the hosting Knights.
"I could hear in their voices post-game just how excited they were to really grind that out through some adversity," Florida head coach Tim Walton said following the Gators win over the Knights.
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Here are four takeaways from this weekend's action in Orlando:
Florida's bats getting busier and bigger
The Gators' lineup has no shortage of talent. From top to bottom, Tim Walton has built a dynamic lineup that has the ability to punish opposing defenses from anywhere on the card.
Over the weekend the Gators scattered 44 hits across four games with the DePaul Blue Demons shouldering much of the load after giving up 15 hit to Florida on Friday night — a season-high for the Gators.
Five different Florida players notched multi-hit outings against DePaul and the Gators went on to score in each of its frames.
And while the Gators' bats were busy all weekend, it wasn't until Saturday that they got bigger.
Fifth-year second baseman Hannah Adams sent a pair of home runs out of the park against James Madison on Sunday, good for her first home runs of this season and bringing her career total to 22.
Senior third baseman Charla Echols also seemed to have dug her way out of her hitting slump over the weekend as she smacked her first home run of the weekend in the third inning against the Dukes.
In Sunday night's slugfest against the Knights, the Gators added another pair of homers to their weekend tally during a seven-run tear in the second inning as freshman Kendra Falby knocked the second home run of her career and Echols' second shot of the weekend left the yard.
"We didn't play very good softball today," Walton admitted after the UCF game. "I think the one thing we did, we hit the ball well, had good baserunning, did a really good job coming up clutch when we got down."
Falby, who picked up her second SEC Freshman of the Week recognition, finished her weekend 7-for-13 from the plate with five runs, four RBIs and a home run.
The Gators finished the weekend 44-for-112, good for a weekend batting average of .392.
Natalie Lugo reasserting herself as Gators ace in talented bullpen
After throwing her second career no-hitter against the UNF Ospreys on Wednesday night, Florida's fifth-year righty entered the weekend with confidence and it showed.
The California native appeared in three of Florida's four games and pitched for 13 complete innings while giving up just eight hits and four runs throughout the weekend.
Lugo, who got the start against Oakland on Saturday, gave up a home run to the Golden Grizzlies on the first pitch she threw, putting the Gators behind a run.
Seemingly unfazed by the early home run, Lugo went on strikeout a season-high eight batters, while keeping Oakland from tallying an additional hit throughout the course of the game.
Despite having hurled 105 pitches just hours earlier in her five-inning outing against James Madison, Lugo also played a large role in the Gators escaping with their first win over UCF in Orlando since 2016.
Lugo checked into the circle in the sixth inning while the Gators white-knuckled a narrow 12-10 lead.
The super senior would give up one more run to the Knights in the sixth inning, before striking out the final batter of the game in the bottom of the seventh inning with a runner on second and a pair of outs, giving Lugo her first save of the season.
Katie Kistler capitalizes on opportunity
Florida sophomore Katie Kistler didn't see a ton of action in her rookie season last year. While appearing in 40 games in 2021, Kistler only had 11 at-bats and primarily appeared as a pinch runner.
However, over the weekend the sophomore was given the nod to start in right field all weekend, which meant getting a long-awaited shot at having an impact from the plate.
Kistler went on to go 6-for-9 on the weekend and played a critical role in turning the lineup over from the nine hole, especially when the Gators needed it against the Knights on Sunday.
"Katie Kistler had a really nice day for us... had a really nice weekend," Walton said after the win over UCF. "Really happy for Kistler getting that lineup turned back over to the top."
Kistler also had a hand in the 9-4-5 relay that sent the Knights' tying run back to the dugout in the sixth inning.
The fourth-ranked Gators return to action on Wednesday night when they host Southern Mississippi at 6 p.m.
Florida also has a five-game homestand approaching this weekend as it hosts the Bubly Invitational.