GAINESVILLE, Fla. – No. 5 Florida defeated Western Kentucky, 5-2, Saturday afternoon at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium. UF turned in five extra-base hits, which included home runs from Charla Echols and Julia Cottrill to help secure the win.
The Gators’ (30-4) first game against the Hilltoppers (15-6) started with a 20-pitch at-bat between right-handed UF starter Elizabeth Hightower (14-2) and leadoff WKU batter Paige Carter. Hightower won the first meeting between the two as she forced Carter to groundout to Echols at third and then finished the frame to retire the next two batters rather quickly.
In the home half of the 1st inning, the Gators jumped out in front early 3-0 via pair of home runs from Echols and Cottrill. Echols belted her fifth home run in as many games to give the Orange & Blue a 1-0 lead, while Cottrill drove home Kendyl Lindaman to extend the lead with her two-run shot to right center field.
Florida forced Western Kentucky to make a pitching change in the bottom of the 2nd inning after Baylee Goddard smacked a double to center field off of Kelsey Aikey (4-6). Shelby Nunn entered the game in relief of Aikey and was able to get out of the jam with a pair of groundouts and a strikeout.
The Hilltoppers broke onto the scoreboard in the 3rd inning via a two-out solo home run from Carter and went on to strike for one more in the 6th inning on a leadoff solo home run by Kennedy Sullivan.
The Gators opted to bring in Katie Chronister in relief of Hightower to which she allowed just one hit through the final two innings pitched for her second save of the season.
Florida struck for two more in the bottom half of the 6th inning to extend its lead out to 5-2. Goddard led off the inning after she was hit by a 3-0 pitch and was moved to third on a double to center field by Sarah Longley. Hannah Adams drove in Goddard with a SAC fly to center field and pinch-hitter Emily Wilkie drove home Longley in the next at-bat with her first career triple.
The Gators capped the afternoon with an exhibition versus Softball Canada that concluded with a 5-2 score in the bottom of the 5th inning due to inclement weather that was approaching the Gainesville area.
In that exhibition, the Gators scored a pair of runs against the world’s No.3-ranked team. Echols drove in Adams in the 1st inning of play via a double to left field with one out that gave UF an initial 1-0 lead.
Canada bounced back in the 2nd inning to score a pair of runs on a Larissa Franklin double that scored Erika Polidori and an RBI single up the middle by Emma Entzminger that scored Franklin.
Echols tied the exhibition 2-2 via a SAC fly to center field that scored Lindsey from third base. Lindsey reached with a triple to right field to lead off the frame.
The 2-2 tie was broken again in the top of the 4th inning by Canada’s Jenn Salling. Salling produced a two-RBI double that scored Victoria Hayward and Janet Leung and was later scored herself via an RBI double to right center by Polidori, which gave Canada a 5-2 lead.
The exhibition was called at the end of the 4th inning due to an approaching severe weather system.
Next up for the Gators in a rematch with Western Kentucky Sunday, April 11, at 11 a.m. on the SEC Network +.