Florida Gators stays undefeated behind Echols big day

Special report on the Florida Gators softball team:

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – The sixth-ranked Florida softball team earned a pair of victories over Georgia Southern, 2-1, and Charlotte, 5-2, Saturday afternoon during the second day of the Bubly Invitational.

The two wins awarded head coach Tim Walton his 799th and 800th wins as a Gator. Last season, Walton earned his 900th career victory as a head coach, which was the second fastest an NCAA Division I head coach had achieved the feat.

The Gators (5-0) won in dramatic fashion for the second time this week as junior Charla Echolscame through in the clutch in the bottom of the 7th inning against Georgia Southern (0-3).

Florida trailed 1-0 with only three outs remaining in the game against the Eagles, but the Gators rallied with a leadoff walk from Avery Goelz and a sacrifice bunt from Kali Reis, which moved the tying run into scoring position. Cheyenne Lindseyturned the lineup over to the top of the order whenever she moved Goelz to third on a groundout to second base.

Hannah Adams followed with a four-pitch walk to put runners on the corners and Kendyl Lindamanloaded the bases in the following to setup Echols.

Echols, who is now hitting .667 (12-18) on the season, laced a 2-1 offering from Kyleigh Richardson (0-1) back up the middle to score Goelz and Adams to win the game.

Rylee Trlicek received the start in the circle and went 4.0 innings, before she was relieved by Katie Chronister (3-0) who turned in a 3.0 innings without relinquishing a hit or a walk.

In the second game of the afternoon, Florida wasted no time in jumping out in front against Charlotte (3-2). In the top of the 1st inning, Lindaman broke open the scoring with a two-run home run that scored Adams, who led off the game being hit by the 0-1 pitch hurled by Maddux Hughes (0-1).

The Gators continued to put the pressure on the 49ers in the following at-bats as Echols drew a five-pitch walk and Avery Goelz produced an infield single that also forced an errant throw into the Charlotte dugout that moved the duo to second and third.

That set the table again, but this time for freshman Emily Wilkie. Wilkie, in her first career start, stepped to the plate and delivered a three-run home run to bust the game open 5-0 in the 1stinning. She drove the 3-2 pitch over the left center field wall for her first collegiate hit and home run as a Gator.

From that moment, right-handed starting pitcher Elizabeth Hightower (2-0) had enough cushion to pitch comfortably from the circle. Hightower retired six-straight from the 2nd and 3rd innings, before she gave up her first hit with two outs in the 4th frame.

Charlotte was eventually able to break through in the 5th inning with an RBI double from Spenser Gray that scored Imani Rochelle and the 49ers closed the lead down to 5-2 in the following 6thinning after they were able to load the bases.

Natalie Lugo (1) entered the game two outs and the bases loaded in the sixth for her first save opportunity of the season. Lugo, the NCAA leader in saves last season, came in to limit the damage to just one run and closed out the game in the 7thinning facing the minimum of batters thanks to a double play turned by Reis and Adams.

The game ended on a sharp groundout to Reis at short, which also secured Walton’s 800th win as the head coach at Florida.

Notable Notes

  • Head coach Tim Walton picked up his 800thcareer victory as a Gator.
    • In 2020, he became the second fastest NCAA Division I head coach to earn 900 career wins.
      • Record at Florida | 800-171 (.824)
      • Career Record | 923-235 (.797)
  • Katie Chronister hurled another 3.0 innings worth of scoreless softball to improve to 3-0 on the year.
    • She is now riding a 12.1 scoreless inning streak. Her career long is 14.1 innings distributed over the 2017-’18 seasons.
    • Chronister also picked up her third victory of the season, which ties her season-high of three in 2020.
  • The Gators won in walk-off fashion for the second time this season.
  • Emily Wilkie registered her first collegiate hit and home run when she pushed the Gators lead out to 5-0 with a three-run blast to left center field in the 1st inning against Charlotte.
  • Before relinquishing a run to Charlotte, Elizabeth Hightower set a new career long scoreless inning streak of 13.1 innings.
    • Her previous record was 11.2 innings set back in 2019.
Andrew Spivey
Andrew always knew he wanted to be involved with sports in some capacity. He began by coaching high school football for six years before deciding to pursue a career in journalism. While coaching, he was a part of two state semifinal teams in the state of Alabama. Given his past coaching experience, he figured covering recruiting would be a perfect fit. He began his career as an intern for Rivals.com, covering University of Florida football recruiting. After interning with Rivals for six months, he joined the Gator Country family as a recruiting analyst. Andrew enjoys spending his free time on the golf course and watching his beloved Atlanta Braves. Follow him on Twitter at @AndrewSpiveyGC.