Florida softball goes 3-1 in final regular-season weekend, suffers stunning loss to FGCU
The No. 10 Florida Gators softball team concluded its regular season as it hosted Florida Gulf Coast and Mercer in back-to-back doubleheaders on Friday and Saturday.
The Gators (41-15) went 3-1 on the weekend after sweeping Mercer 8-3 and 2-0 and splitting the weekend with FGCU 8-0 and 3-4.
Looking at how the weekend shook out for the Gators, it was a fitting end for Florida's up-and-down season.
Here are three takeaways from the doubleheaders.
Florida softball reunion:Former Gator returns to Gainesville as Mercer coach
Gators' hitting on a roller coaster ride
Florida played doubleheaders against FGCU and Mercer (16-38) on Friday night and Saturday afternoon in what were two very different displays of offense from the Gators.
In Friday's action, the Gators combined for 25 hits against the Bears and Eagles.
However, come Saturday, Florida's offense tanked as it generated just 10 hits in its two games against the same teams — albeit different pitchers.
While the Gators had six different hitters turn in multi-hit games Friday — and three of those hitters doing it in both games — only one Gators batter could say the same on Saturday afternoon.
Senior Cheyenne Lindsey led the offense over the weekend going a combined 6-for-11 from the plate, including 2-for-3 and 2-for-4 with two RBIs on Friday. Sophomore Katie Kistler (5-for-11, 3B, HR, 4 RBI) also had a big weekend for UF.
Ally Hulme leads Florida Gulf Coast to big win
Florida Gulf Coast junior righty Ally Hulme helped the Eagles (18-33) highlight their weekend with their second top-10 win of the season Saturday as they stunned UF 3-2.
When the Eagles took the field in the sixth inning, Hulme still had a no-hitter intact and had kept Florida off the scoreboard, helping FGCU hang on to its 3-0 lead.
Though the Gators would go on to spoil Hulme's no-no bid in the bottom of the sixth inning as Skylar Wallace and Charla Echols sent back-to-back hits into right centerfield, Florida couldn't generate enough offense off Hulme to come away with a win.
The Gators loaded the bases in seventh inning and scratched across a run before Hulme and the Eagles worked their way out of the jam.
Hulme finished her complete-game outing having given up just three hits, two earned runs, walking five and striking out four. On the weekend, Hulme pitched a combined 13.0 innings, gave up 12 hits, six earned runs and struck out eight.
Elizabeth Hightower notches three-hit weekend
Though Florida's loss to FGCU put a damper on the Gators' Saturday, a complete-game, one-hit gem from senior righty Elizabeth Hightower helped the Gators end the afternoon on a high note.
Hightower, who got the nod against the Bears on Saturday after shutting out FGCU 8-0 on Friday night, faced 23 batters in an efficient showing that saw her and the Gators' field force five "three up, three down" innings.
Hightower's outing against the Eagles on Friday was nearly as efficient as she once again faced 23 batters and forced two "three up, three down" innings to help the Gators run-rule FGCU in six innings. Through a combined 13 innings, Hightower gave up just three hits, struck out seven and gave up no runs.
For the first time since 2005, Florida will host the SEC softball tournament at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium.
Games will run from Tuesday to Saturday with all 13 SEC softball programs competing for the tournament title. For the rest of the teams in the league, conference play wraps up this weekend so the tournament bracket will be set once those games are complete.