JACKSONVILLE (Florida Sports Wire) – No. 4 Florida trounced Jacksonville 13-2 (5 innings) Tuesday evening at the Debbie and Fred Pruitt Softball Complex. The Orange & Blue’s run-rule victory is the fourth-straight to begin the 2023 season.
The Gators’ (4-0) offense scored in four of the five innings played against the Dolphins (3-2) and picked up three home runs from Baylee Goddard, Skylar Wallace and Charla Echols.
The scoring opened up in the top of the 1st inning when Goddard scored from third on a wild pitch thrown by JU starting pitcher Ashlee Harwood (2-1). Goddard, an Orange Park, Fla. native, reached base via hit-by-pitch, was moved to second by a walk drawn by Wallace and then to third by an additional walk issued to Reagan Walsh.
Goddard broke open the game in the top of the 2nd inning to give UF a 4-0 lead with a towering three-run home run over the left field fence. The longball scored Sarah Longley and Kendra Falby who each reached base via a walk and infield single respectively.
Florida extended the lead out to 7-0 in the top of the 3rd inning thanks to a pair of home runs blasted by Wallace and Echols. Wallace drove in three with her laser line-drive homer just inside the right field foul pole that scored Katie Kistler and Goddard, while Echols blistered the ball with a high-arching shot down the right field line for her first home run of the year.
In the 4th inning, Sam Roe continued her solid play at the plate with a line drive single to left, which was followed by a double from Avery Goelz and walk from pinch-hitter Emily Wilkie loaded the bases with no outs. Pinch-hitter Olivia Gigante plated Roe after she was hit by the pitch, Falby pushed across Goelz with a bases loaded walk and Goddard notched her fourth RBI of the night after she was hit by the JU pitcher’s offering.
The scoring in the 4th inning concluded with an RBI fielder’s choice by Wallace and a SAC fly by Walsh that extended the lead out to 13-0.
Jacksonville spoiled Florida starting pitcher Elizabeth Hightower’s perfect game in the bottom of the 4th inning when the Dolphins picked up a two-out single down the left field line. Hightower finished the frame with a foul out to Echols at third for her second one-hit performance in as many starts. She also didn’t allow a walk and struck out five Dolphins through the 4 innings of work.
The Dolphins however was able to also breakup the shutout in last inning of play and close down the Gators lead to 13-2. Graduate transfer Samantha Bender entered the game in the bottom of the 5th inning and JU capitalized on a series of walks, a hit-by-pitch and a wild pitch to earn the pair of runs.
Overall, the duo combined for the program’s second one-hitter of the season and the first combined one-hitter.
GATORS NOTES: Florida improved to 26-0 over Jacksonville with tonight’s win….this season the Gators have opened up the season with four run-rule victories and have outscored opponents 54-4 over 20 innings of play..it’s the second time in program history that UF has opened the season with four run-rule victories, but it’s the first time in program history that the program has finished all four opening games in five innings….in 2016, the Gators opened the season with four run-rule victories, but that squad’s third game resulted in a 8-0 victory over Virginia Tech in six innings…Elizabeth Hightower and Samantha Bender combined for the program’s second one-hitter of the season. It’s also the Gators all-time 29th combined one-hitter…the Gators hit three home runs for the second-consecutive game this season behind Goddard, Wallace and Echols..t’s the first time since the 2021 season the Gators posted multiple games with at least three home runs.