Gators throw three-hit shutout vs. FGCU as Florida coach Tim Walton earns career win No. 950
As a head coach since 2003, Tim Walton had never been to Fort Myers during his time with Wichita State or with the Florida Gators, the team that he has coached since 2006.
That changed Wednesday evening, and Walton brought home a milestone to go along with it — career win No. 950. The third-ranked Gators (33-6, 12-3 SEC) blanked FGCU (21-16, 10-2 ASUN) 3-0 at the FGCU Softball Complex.
"It was good," Walton said of the milestone. "Obviously the way you write a schedule doesn't always work out the way you think. This game wasn't slated for this date originally, but the pandemic forced adjustments and shifts. Coming off a road trip with another road trip wasn't ideal, but I thought our players handled it pretty well and scored early.
"(FGCU coach) Dave (Deiros), his crew and the staff here did a great job. They welcomed us and greeted us. Getting our fanbase an opportunity to see us play live in a location we haven't played before is pretty cool."
Walton possesses a career record of 950-241 and his .798 winning percentage ranks first among active Division I head coaches.
Deiros offered his congratulations to Walton and the Gators after the game.
"I'm glad that I was there. He didn't let me know beforehand that I was going to be another notch in his belt," Deiros said in jest. "He has been a phenomenal coach for a long period of time. He does a great job in preparation. The biggest testament that I can say to his performance is that whenever I talk to his former players, they just tell me how well he does in getting them ready for the next level.
"I'm glad that I'm a footnote in his history."
The duo of Natalie Lugo and Katie Chronister couldn't be stopped on the hill for the Gators, as they combined for a three-hitter with six strikeouts. Lugo went five innings and grabbed her 11th win of the season. Neither side surrendered a walk in the game.
It was only fitting that Chronister would be the one to close things out, as the fifth-year senior has been a part of 219 Walton wins and counting.
"At the end of the day, you're just trying to figure out combinations that work to win games," Walton added. "Especially late in games. Those are hard things to do, facing the best lineup again for the third and fourth time sometimes. Katie has been doing a good job in that role. I thought Natalie did a really good job being able to throw five shutout innings and we did enough offensively."
The Gators got to FGCU starter Sarah Lawton early, as Hannah Adams opened the game with a single up the middle, followed by Cheyenne Lindsey's two-run homer to right field.
Lawton would retire the next nine she faced before being relieved by Marissa Mesiemore. The South Sumter alum went three innings, giving up four hits and one earned run while striking out a pair.
"I thought Sarah did phenomenally well," Deiros said. "For her to bounce back the way she did, it was really bad luck on both of those kids. It was a really good pitch to Adams, and she reached out and poked it up the middle. We thought we had Lindsey struck out on the 2-2 pitch, that was just bad luck and we didn't get it.
"We tried to sneak something in on her hands and she did a great job of turning on it. It's less of what Sarah did and more credit you have to give to the UF hitters. After that, Sarah was able to go ahead and really pinpoint command."
The Gators would go scoreless for five frames until Jaimie Hoover hit a sacrifice fly off of Emily Estroff that plated Katie Kistler.
In the loss for FGCU, Reedy Davenport, McKenna Batterton, and Abbey Thomas had one hit apiece.
Florida will return home to Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium to take on South Carolina (23-17) in a three-game series starting Friday. First pitch will be at 6 p.m. on Friday, as the Gators will look to chase down Arkansas for the top spot in the SEC.
The Eagles have a three-game series at home against ASUN rival Jacksonville over the weekend, starting with a doubleheader Saturday at 2 and 4 p.m.
Follow USA Today Network — Florida Sports Writer Alex Martin on Twitter: @NP_AlexMartin