TAMPA, FLA — Natalie Lugo had to feel good.
The junior right hander retired 10 of the last 11 batters she faced tracing back to her one-run complete game in the season-opening contest against Illinois State. Now after two UF wins, she put away the first two batters in Saturday’s showdown with Michigan.
Lugo held a 2-2 count against Wolverines first baseman Lou Allan before a single through the middle extended the inning. One baserunner turned to two, then three…then a five-run, two-out rally fueled by two more singles, a double and two errors.
The wheels fell off Lugo, who allowed more baserunners (6) in one inning against Michigan then she had in her first eight innings (5). The relief unit didn’t fair well either, as sophomore Danni Farley (3.0 IP, 3 hits, 4 BB, 3 K) relinquished two runs before sophomore Elizabeth Hightower allowed two home runs and an RBI double in the sixth.
Florida’s confidence crippled. The No. 7 Gators played timid softball against No. 17 Michigan, lasting just six innings before an 11-2 advantage evoked the mercy rule.
Yet, the weekend as a whole should be viewed as a positive for Florida’s pitching staff. Despite one embarrassing performance, the Gators executed aptly in the circle.
Lugo pitched a complete game against Illinois State in a 4-1 victory to jumpstart the 2020 campaign, and her performance should not be taken lightly. The Redbirds put up four runs on one of the best pitchers in the country — Michigan’s Meghan Beaubien — in a narrow 5-4 defeat.
Lugo came back against Fresno State in a tricky situation. She inherited two baserunners with no outs from Hightower with a 6-4 lead in the bottom of the seventh, but she struck out two batters down the stretch for the save.
Florida also got fantastic contributions from its touted freshman Rylee Trlicek.
The lefty from Hallettsville, Texas, showed a bit of nerves when she gave up seven hits and three runs in three innings against Fresno State for her first collegiate start.
But Trlicek returned with a vengeance in her next appearance. She got the ball against Georgia State on Sunday and hurled a five-inning no hitter (6 K), finishing only a hit batter away from a perfect game.
She also registered a save in the day’s second-leg triumph over USF, 6-1, allowing just one hit while striking out two.
The Gators needed multiple arms to emerge out of the inexperienced staff, and they got that last weekend in Lugo and Trlicek. Including the struggles of Farley and Hightower (4.2 IP, 6 H, 5 ER, 3 HR, 2 2B, 2 BB, 5 K) and the rout to the Wolverines, Florida now has humbling experiences on tape to improve on as well as plenty of success to celebrate.
Current Record: 4-1
Last Week (Monday-Sunday): 4-1 at USF-Rawlings Invitational
W 4-1 vs. Illinois State (Friday)
W 6-4 vs. Fresno State (Saturday)
L 2-11 vs. Michigan (Saturday)
W 10-0 vs. Georgia State (Sunday)
W 6-1 vs. South Florida (Sunday)
Offensive Player of the Week: Charla Echols
For the second-straight season UF brought in a transfer from the Big Ten, and for the second-straight year the move translated into a massive offensive addition.
Echols left Tampa with a team-leading .467 batting average (7 for 15, 7 RBI, 2 HR, 3 BB). She’s also slugging .933, good for second on the team.
Echols managed an RBI in each game except one, going 0 for 2 against Georgia State with a walk and a run scored.
Pitcher of the Week: Rylee Trlicek
UF received a sterling performance from freshman pitcher Rylee Trlicek in perhaps the most impressive outing of the weekend.
Her five-inning no hitter was a truly outstanding way to secure her first collegiate win, and she backed up the performance with a solid relief effort.
Trlicek leads the Gators in strikeout-walk ratio (8.89) and WHIP (0.99).
Upcoming Games: (All at home)
Exhibition vs. USA Softball (Tuesday, 6 p.m.)
North Florida (Wednesday, 6 p.m.)
North Dakota State (Friday, 4:30 p.m.)
Longwood (Friday, 7 p.m.)
North Dakota State (Saturday, 11:30 a.m.)
Longwood (Saturday, 2 p.m.)
Southeastern Louisiana (Sunday, 11:30 a.m.)
Florida A&M (Sunday, 2 p.m.)
The Gators have an extremely soft home tournament slate bookended by midweek ties with North Florida and Jacksonville. These upcoming contests will pose an excellent opportunity to find rhythm in the circle while flushing out mistakes with low consequence.
Mark Stine is a contributing writer for Chomp Talk. Follow him on Twitter @mstinejr.