Florida Gators softball: Charla Echols notches pair of doubles as Gators defeat Stetson
It had been 36 days since the ninth-ranked Florida softball team visited the Stetson Hatters in DeLand on March 22.
The programs' two-game, home-and-home series should've long ago concluded this season. However, after a rainy day in Gainesville on March 16 the Gators and Hatters were forced to reschedule the game, which was played Wednesday night at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium and saw Florida shut out Stetson 5-0.
Here are takeaways from the Gators and Hatters' midweek tilt.
Gators make changes in lineup
Since their last meeting with the Hatters, the Gators have played a gauntlet of a schedule that has featured 15 games against SEC opponents; and games against then-No. 22 UCF, then-No. 2 FSU and USF.
And though Stetson didn't enter Gainesville with the prominence of Florida's past eight opponents, the Gators weren't going to take the Hatters lightly.
"We still go into it like anyone can beat you at any given time," Florida freshman Kendra Falby said. "It's just going in and focusing on the Gators and making sure that we work on what we need to work on."
Following a three-game skid to Arkansas last weekend, Florida head coach Tim Walton likely had a number of things he wanted to see the team work on. And some of that was evident in Wednesday's changes to the lineup.
Florida senior Cheyenne Lindsey, who went 2-for-4, hit from the two-hole on Wednesday night after hitting more toward the middle to the back half of the lineup all season.
"We're still trying to stack the speed," Walton said. "Just trying to figure out what the magnetic pieces are... I just feel like with Cheyenne, she can hit a home run, she can drop a bunt down, she can steal the base. There's a lot of options there."
Lindsey and Falby both turned in two-hit nights, while Falby also scratched across a run in the bottom of the fourth after putting down a two-out bunt single, stole second and went on to advance home after back-to-back throwing errors by the Hatters.
Redshirt senior Kinsey Goelz earned her second start of the season on Wednesday night, taking the dirt from shortstop and batting seventh in the lineup.
"Today the opportunity was to give Kinsey Goelz a start," Walton said. "She works really hard. She's a tremendous asset to our program... She deserves an opportunity and I think that's what sometimes midweeks allow us to do.
Charla Echols hits big against Hatters
Florida senior Charla Echols received a text from Walton on Tuesday night commending her for a strong showing at practice.
And chances are, the Gators' starting third baseman will receive another text after leading Florida's offense with a pair of doubles and stout play from the hot corner.
Echols, who went 2-for-3 with an RBI, came into Wednesday's game after having gone 1-for-7 against Arkansas over the weekend.
"I wouldn't necessarily call it a slump," Walton said. "This is her fourth year in college. And in times, I've seen fourth-year players go through the same type of stuff. It's the grind. She's coming to the end of her undergraduate degree, she's working really hard on a lot of things... Her swing looks about the same as it always has."
Walton calls Echols a "super underrated defender".
Against the Hatters, Echols recorded a putout and a pair of assists.
"I'm just trying to get her to have fun," Walton said. "If she has more nights like tonight, then maybe she'll smile a little bit more and we will win a lot more games."
Gators trio of arms shut it down
Starting in the circle for the Gators was freshman Lexie Delbrey, giving her her 16th start and 11th win of her rookie campaign.
Delbrey worked through 5.0 innings, giving up just two hits and striking out six Hatters.
"I felt very good out there," Delbrey said. "All of my pitches were really working."
Junior Rylee Trlicek relieved Delbrey in the sixth inning, facing three batters and striking out two, while senior Elizabeth Hightower polished off the game in the top of the seventh, striking out the side with just 12 pitches.
"Long story short, I think the key is that all three of them did an outstanding job of doing everything that they had to for us to win," Walton said. "And we had no walks."
Kami Eppley notches solid night against UF
Albeit being a freshman and playing against the No. 9 team in the country, the moment wasn't too big for Stetson rookie Kami Eppley.
Eppley, who started in centerfield, was one of just two Hatters to notch hits against the Gators with a base hit to shortstop in the top of the fifth inning. Following the hit, Eppley went on to swipe second base, improving her to 9-for-9 on the season.
The Stetson freshman also recorded a pair of putouts and gunned down a Florida base runner trying to make it home with a throw from centerfield to behind the plate.
Following Wednesday night's return to the win column, the Gators will look to keep it going this weekend as they head to Baton Rouge to take on the 19th-ranked LSU Tigers for the final regular-season SEC series of the year. Game one is Friday night at 7.
Meanwhile, Stetson preps for its final conference series at home as Kennesaw State comes to visit with game one getting underway on Saturday at 1 p.m.