First loss of the season
This Gators Softball team has a lot of strengths. The hitting, led by Cheyenne Lindsey, Hannah Adams and Charla Echols willed Florida to a number of wins this season. On the other side, the pitching staff, headlined by Katie Chronister’s undefeated record entering Saturday, shutout Florida State on Friday.
It was a different tale on Saturday evening.
Chronister picked up her first loss of the season, but most of the damage was done in the second inning.
In the first inning, Chronister was her usual, dominant self in the circle. A one-hit first inning kept the game scoreless, but Florida State exploded in the second inning. In the five batters Chronister faced in the second inning, the Seminoles grabbed three hits and a walk, with the lone out being a fielder’s choice to allow FSU to score.
The most uncharacteristic moment came just before that out when a bases-loaded wild pitch advanced all runners and gave FSU the early 1-0 lead. By the end of the second, the Tallahassee team chased Chronister and amassed a five-to-nothing lead.
On the offensive side, Florida could not muster any energy for much of the game. It was not until the fourth inning that the Gators could force a run across the plate. The sophomore struck out four Gators in the first three innings, allowing only one hit.
A bit of hope came in the second when Florida’s bats briefly woke up to put two runs on the board. Two players who have not had as much playing time, freshman Emily Wilkie and sophomore Sarah Longley, accounted for the two RBIs in the top of the fourth.
FSU would tack on two more insurance runs in the bottom of the fifth to restore their five-run advantage. The hosts would not relinquish the lead, only allowing two hits over the final three innings.
Things to take away
This two-game series served two different looks into Tim Walton’s 2021 Gators. FSU is by far the toughest opponent Florida has played this year.
The Seminoles entered the series having played three ranked opponents, Florida played none entering the weekend.
If Friday’s 5-0 win demonstrated Florida’s dominance on offense and defense, Saturday’s loss showed where this team can improve.
Florida’s offense coming into the game was top-heavy. Perhaps some of the attention given to Charla Echols, Hannah Adams, Cheyenne Lindsey and Kendyl Lindaman took away from the other batters. However, FSU showed that if a pitcher can contain these four consecutive batters, the game is up for the taking. These four batters accounted for four of Florida’s six hits, including a 2-3 performance by Charla Echols.
The same philosophy applies to the pitching. Get hits off Chronister, you do well. That is no easy task. There is a reason the fifth-year star earned SEC Pitcher of the Week honors earlier this season. However, FSU obviously did their homework to force four hits and five runs.
There are some positives despite the five-run loss. Relatively unseen players like Sarah Longley and Emily Wilkie made the most of their opportunities on Saturday to account for Florida’s RBIs.
It would have been unrealistic to think Florida’s pitching staff could maintain their gaudy numbers, and that Florida could pull out last-inning victories as they have done on multiple occasions.
Saturday’s loss provides an indication of where Florida can build going into SEC play. Their opponents only get tougher as the season rolls into SEC play.
SEC play begins next weekend, with a midweek matchup against Kennesaw State being the last tune-up.
The Gators host the Owls Wednesday night at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium.