Few college hitters are swinging the bat as well as Charla Echols right now.
The sophomore third baseman leads the SEC in hits (25) and sits second in total bases (47) three weeks into the softball season.
Yet, Echols’ bat may be making so much noise because many of the sluggers around her remain silent.
A season ago, the top of Florida’s lineup featured the consistent Hannah Adams followed by All-Americans Kendyl Lindaman and Amanda Lorenz.
That trio alone produced 43 percent of UF’s hits, 44 percent of its RBIs and 50 percent of its walks in 2019.
Now with Lorenz replaced by Echols, the Gators are maintaining a strikingly similar imbalance, and it definitely showed against the four Top 25 opponents they faced in California last weekend.
Through all 18 games of 2020, the trio of Adams, Echols and Lindaman averaged 46 percent of UF’s hits, 43 percent of its RBIs and 45 percent of its walks. But over the five games Florida played in California, the leadoff unit managed 50 percent of the hits, 63 percent of the RBIs, 50 percent of the walks and three out of the four home runs.
On Friday against No. 5 Arizona and No. 25 Northwestern, the triad was responsible for all six of the Gators’ RBIs in the back-to-back 3-2 victories.
And with a total of 38 runners left on base last weekend (7.6 per game), Florida desperately needed a spark from someone else.
Luckily, freshmen Julia Cottrill and Baylee Goddard stepped up.
Cottrill and Goddard hit a combined 7 for 23 with three RBIs and six walks. Cottrill herself had three doubles, while Goddard blasted a home run against No. 1 UCLA.
It’s very encouraging to see young power hitters blossoming, but it remains to be seen if these freshmen can maintain this production.
The rest of UF’s lineup to register at least 10 at-bats in California (Jordan Roberts, Cheynne Lindsey, Sophia Reynoso and Jordan Matthews) combined for a measly 6-of-46 hitting (.130), three RBIs and two walks.
Florida simply can’t be this top heavy… again. Hot hitting may have vaulted the Gators to an SEC Championship a season ago, but it plagued them in the Women’s College World Series and for much of the SEC regular season, where they finished 12-12.
Yes, UF has to feel good about beating three ranked opponents in two days. But playing with a limited offensive production base could, yet again, be the Achilles heel of this team, especially when SEC series pick up.
Current Record: 16-2 (ranked No. 7 in NFCA Coaches Poll)
Last Week (Monday-Sunday): 6-0
W 8-0 vs. Jacksonville (Wednesday)
Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic (Palm Springs, California):
W 3-2 vs. No. 4 Arizona (Friday)
W 3-2 vs. No. 25 Northwestern (Friday)
W 4-1 vs. No. 16 Arizona State (Saturday)
L 4-5 vs. No. 1 UCLA (Saturday)
W 6-3 vs. Nebraska (Sunday)
Offensive Player of the Week: Kendyl Lindaman
Lindaman was the definition of consistent in Florida’s third week. The senior had an RBI in every contest for a total of seven, and she also hit two home runs. Lindaman is second on Florida with a .392 batting average and has an RBI in 12 of 18 games this year.
Pitcher of the Week: Natalie Lugo and Rylee Trlicek
Both Lugo and Trlicek dominated the inning count for the Gators in California. Trlicek got credit for three wins and one loss, while Lugo made three starts, earning one win and the save against Arizona. Lugo hurled 16.4 innings in total, giving up 10 hits, seven walks and four earned runs while striking out 22 batters. Trlicek tossed 13.2 innings, allowing 23 hits and four walks but just three earned runs (six total).
Home vs. Louisiana (Friday, 6 p.m.)
Home vs. Louisiana (Saturday, 1 p.m.)
Home vs. Louisiana (Sunday, Noon)
No. 11 Louisiana will pose a very tough test. The Ragin’ Cajuns already secured Top 10 wins over No. 6 LSU and then-No. 8 Oklahoma State. Right hander Summer Ellyson (7-0) holds a 1.20 ERA and has allowed only 22 hits in 46.2 innings (0.58 WHIP).
Mark Stine is a contributing writer for Chomp Talk. Follow him on Twitter @mstinejr.