The number 7/9-ranked Florida softball entered its season opener with a lot of questions. And while it’s still early, through their first game of the season, they left not only with a 4-1 win over Illinois State — but with some answers.
Perhaps the biggest question surrounding Florida softball is who would fill the Kelly Barnhill-sized hole in the circle. And up until Friday night, it sounded as if Florida’s coach Tim Walton didn’t even know the answer.
“I don’t think we have a number one (pitcher), to be honest with you,” Walton said during Florida softball’s Media Day back in late January. “We had Natalie Lugo and Rylee Trlicek probably have the two best falls… we’re just going to go with what’s going, and (you) might see five pitchers in every game this season.”
And on Friday night, Natalie Lugo was “what’s going.”
Gators take the victory over Illinois State to open the 2020 season‼️
— Gators Softball (@GatorsSB) February 8, 2020
After firing 111 pitches, the junior pitcher struck out 11 in a solid performance.
Heading into the 2020 season opener, Walton also attested that fans would see a more offensively-driven play style from the Gators this year.
Through the course of seven innings, the Gators faced three different pitchers from Illinois State — and each struggled throughout the evening. Florida batters were given a free base on six different occasions — two of which helped the Gators score.
In the bottom of the second inning, Hannah Adams took a hit with bases loaded to score Jordan Matthews. After a pitching change, Kendyl Lindaman was walked to score Jade Caraway and then Gator newcomer Charla Echols took to the plate with the bases loaded and blasted a two-run double. Echol’s first hit as a Gator brought home Hannah Adams and Sophia Reynoso.
Welcome to #GatorNation, @charlaechols! The newcomer bangs out a double to score two runs and the #Gators increase their lead to 4-1 over Illinois State in the bottom of the second. UF has scored four runs in the second and is still going with 2 out and 2nd and 3rd. Roberts up.
— InAllKindsOfWeather.com (@AllKindsWeather) February 8, 2020
In addition to Michigan State transfer Charla Echols, Jordan Matthews, Jade Caraway and Sophia Reynoso also contributed from the batter’s box.
The Gators, who were all eager to get back on the diamond after a long off season, will get to return to play very quickly. Florida will return to action just 12 hours after their opening win. Catch the Gators in action on Saturday twice as they face Fresno State and nationally ranked Michigan.