Florida softball: Olivia Gigante posts career night as Gators down Mercer 14-3
As it does each season, the Florida Gators' softball team got a taste of Gainesville living up to its affectionate "Rainesville" nickname Friday night as lightning struck minutes after 6:30 p.m., halting the opening day of Florida's Bubly Invitational and interrupting the No. 8 Gators' doubleheader plans.
Shortly after the delay was announced, the skies opened over the dirt of Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium, which was covered by the rain tarp minutes earlier.
Florida's scheduled game against No. 24 Louisiana-Lafayette was suspended until Sunday due to the weather.
Fortunately for Florida, it was able to make good use of its time on the field prior to Mother Nature's disruption as the Gators hammered the visiting Mercer Bears,14-3.
Florida softball reunion:Former Gator Lindsay Fico returns to Gainesville as Mercer coach
Here are takeaways from the win.
Olivia Gigante puts on hitting clinic
Florida's two-way rookie Olivia Gigante has settled in nicely in her first season.
Considering Florida's depth in the bullpen, Florida hasn't had to lean on the right-handed pitcher much this season. However, that hasn't stopped Gigante from making some noise in the lineup.
Coming into Friday, Gigante had rotated in and out of the lineup, often as a designated player, and made 21 trips to the plate through her opening 18 games. Through that span, Gigante maintained a .238 batting average with five hits and a home run.
After Friday afternoon's showing, however, we might see Gigante become more of a staple in the offense.
In the bottom of the first inning, Florida had worked its way to a narrow, 1-0 lead after sophomore Kendra Falby stole home following a costly error by Mercer catcher Sophie Sumner.
Shortly after the Gators' opening run, Gigante delivered a two-run shot over the centerfield wall, good for the second home run of her premature college career. And the first-year Gator wasn't done there.
In Florida's second trip to bat, Gigante once again toed the batter's box. This time, however, she was the first to see a new Mercer pitcher in Madi Wicker, who relieved senior Riley Hickok (1.1 IP, 6 hits, 7 earned runs).
But the new arm didn't evidently didn't fluster Gigante as she sent Wicker's 1-0 offering back over the centerfield wall, giving her two homers in two trips to the plate.
The Gators would finish with three home runs as fifth-year senior Charla Echols (3-4, HR, 7 RBI) would notch her fifth of the year against the Bears. Gigante finished the night 3-for-4 with four RBI.
Bubly Invitational brings a number of familiar faces back to Gainesville
Perhaps one of the biggest storylines of the weekend is the return to campus for Mercer head coach Lindsay Fico and Rutgers head coach Kristen Butler. Not only did Fico and Butler both spend their college playing careers at Florida, but the tandem also spent some time as roommates in Gainesville.
But Fico and Butler aren't the only ones returning to a place they once called home this weekend.
On Mercer's roster are a trio of players who spent their high school days in Gainesville and its surrounding areas.
Mercer fifth-year senior Bailey Ledvina, who started at second base and hit from the four-hole Friday night, is a graduate of Santa Fe High School and also spent time at P.K. Yonge. She helped drive in one of the Bears' three runs against the Gators with a team-leading two-hit effort.
Meanwhile, freshman Parris Wiggs, who graduated from Gainesville High School last year after a senior campaign that earned her player of the year honors, was also welcomed back home by a sizeable entourage that featured family, friends and GHS head coach Chris Chronister.
While Wiggs didn't appear in Mercer's lineup, she did spend time out in right field and recorded a putout for the Bears.
Rounding out the group was Mercer sophomore Lillian Wilkerson, a graduate of Trenton High School who joined the Bears after spending her freshman season at FGCU last spring. Wilkerson didn't appear in Friday night's tilt against Florida.
Busy weekend still ahead for the Gators
Had Friday night's doubleheader gone off without a hitch, the Gators would have just three games remaining this weekend.
However, since Florida wasn't able to play its game against Louisiana-Lafayette Friday, the Gators still have four games to play this weekend − two on Saturday and two on Sunday.
Here's Florida's remaining schedule for the weekend:
Florida vs. Mercer, 11:30 a.m.
Florida vs. Louisiana-Lafayette, 1 p.m.
Florida vs. Louisiana-Lafayette, 11:30 a.m.
Florida vs. Rutgers, 1 p.m.