Gator Softball looks for 9-0 start against UNF

The number six Florida Gator softball team looks to build on their perfect start on Thursday when they welcome the UNF Ospreys.

Getting comfortable at the plate

Florida’s hitting has been solid this year, but not perfect. In three of their nine games, Florida’s bats came alive in the seventh inning to provide a lead. In a season opener-against USF, a 1-0 win over Jacksonville and a 2-1 win over Georgia Southern, the Gators totaled 23 hits, but could not put runners across the plate.

Charla Echols runs to first in the 2021 home opener against the Jacksonville Dolphins. Charla Echols began the season having statistically the best start by a Gator in program history in the batter’s box. (PHOTO CREDIT: Tim Casey, UAA, @GatorsSB/Twitter)

Part of that issue might be leaving the bases loaded. On at least five occasions, Tim Walton’s squad has left the bases juiced, sometimes when there were one or even no outs at the time of getting runners aboard.

Another issue is Kendyl Lindaman. Although we say she is struggling, she still is fifth on the team in batting average at .348, and she hit a home run over the weekend against Charlotte. Gator coach Tim Walton says she is just finding her groove and getting mentally in line with her Preseason All-SEC expectations.

Still, the Gators have had success at the plate, led by Charla Echols. The senior leads the team in batting average at .542 this season, accounting for two home runs, two triples and two doubles. Hannah Adams, Cheyenne Lindsey and Jaimie Hoover also have batting averages at or above .400.

Dominance in the circle

However, if the batting has shown struggles, the pitching and defense have thrived this season.

Katie Chronister pitches during the 2020 softball season. Chronister earned SEC Pitcher of the Week for her performance in the 2021 Bubly Invitational. PHOTO CREDIT: Joshua Gately / Florida Athletics.

Katie Chronister earned SEC Pitcher of the Week for her performance in the Bubly Invitational. She appeared in three games and received credit for three victories with her 12.2 innings pitched without giving up a run. Chronister tossed her second-career complete game shutout as a Gator in her win against Charlotte.

However, a pitcher always relies on her defense. Players like Cheyenne Lindsey, who has made a number of impressive catches at her post in center field, allow these pitchers to succeed.

Tim Walton stresses the importance of this defense that allows his pitchers to take control of a game. Combine that defense with efficient, smart pitching, and it is not hard to see why the Gators have shutouts in four of their nine games this season.

Outside of players like Chronister, Natalie Lugo and Elizabeth Hightower, Florida’s defense has been preventing any major threats to the scoreboard.

The most runs allowed in one game so far for the Gators is three, which happened on two occasions. Walton stresses forcing ground balls to limit extra-base hits, something Florida has done well  so far. Gator pitchers have yielded only nine extra-base hits, including just one home run given up.

Building on Successes

Over the weekend, Walton earned his 800th victory as a coach. He also earned his 801st and 802nd, but those do not roll off the tongue as nicely as 800.

Walton says the milestone signifies sustainability in his coaching style, players’ performances and creation of a program.

If Walton wants to be “in the mix” with the 2021 Gator softball team, they have to get there one game at a time.  That means focusing on the next task at hand, which is the University of North Florida on Thursday night.

UNF enters the game with a record of 1-4, with the win coming over Boston College. The Ospreys have struggled getting runs across the plate this season, only putting up nine runs through five games, including two shutouts. Shannon Glover is the player to watch for, as she leads the team in batting average (.333), hits (five) and doubles (three).

Expect either Halle Arends or Morgan Clausen in the circle for the Ospreys, who both allow an opposition batting average under .240.

First pitch is set for 6 p.m., and you can listen on ESPN 98.1 FM-850AM WRUF.

About Kyle Fansler

Originally from Seminole in the Tampa Bay area, Kyle is a contributor for ESPN Gainesville as well as local NPR and PBS affiliate WUFT. Kyle wants to get into sports with a lofty dream of being a sports broadcaster. He was raised playing soccer and baseball while watching hockey and football, so the knowledge about various sports is fairly extensive.

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