With one out and the winning run aboard in the bottom of the seventh inning, Florida third baseman Charla Echols dug into the batter’s box to face Texas A&M right-hander Makinzy Herzog.
On a 2-2 count, Herzog hurled her 124th pitch of the game over the heart of the plate and Echols found her sweet spot. The junior Newnan, Ga., native belted a three-run, walk-off homer to dead center and greeted her animated teammates at the plate.
Echols’ 12th home run this year — which leads the team — lifted the Gators to a 5-3 series-opening victory over the Aggies Friday at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium.
Florida junior Elizabeth Hightower started in the circle and gave up an unearned run in the top of the second. With two outs, shortstop Sarah Longley committed her team-leading fourth error, which led to an RBI single the next at-bat.
An inning later, Hightower allowed a leadoff walk and a double before Aggies cleanup hitter Bre Warren’s two-run single opened up a 3-0 Texas A&M advantage.
But Florida’s bats woke up in the bottom half of the frame. Center fielder Cheyenne Lindsey and second baseman Hannah Adams led off with back-to-back doubles to put the Gators on the board.
The next batter, designated player Kendyl Lindaman, singled home Adams to cut the deficit to 3-2. The Gators stranded three baserunners in the third and failed to record a hit off Herzog until Echols’ long ball in the seventh.
Florida southpaw Katie Chronister relieved Hightower following a pair of leadoff singles in the top of the fourth and pitched four hitless innings. The Gainesville native yielded only two baserunners — one of which came via an intentional walk — en route to picking up her eighth win this season.
Texas A&M: 3 / 7 / 0
No. 4 Florida: 5 / 5 / 1
Win: Chronister (8-2)
Loss: Herzog (12-5)
Individual Stats (season totals)
Hightower: 3 IP, 7 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 2 K (1.64 ERA)
Chronister: 4 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 4 K (1.78 ERA)
- Adams: 1-3, 2 R, 1 RBI, 1 BB (.400 BA)
- Lindaman: 1-4, 1 RBI (.307 BA)
- Echols: 2-4, 1 R, 3 RBIs, 1 HR (12), SB (.357 BA)
- Cottrill: 0-3 (.290 BA)
- Wilkie: 0-1, 1 HBP (.222 BA)
- Hoover: 0-1, 2 BB (.243 BA)
- Longley: 0-2, 1 R, 1 BB (.169 BA)
- A. Goelz: 0-2 (.245 BA)
- Lindsey: 1-2, 2 R, 1 BB (.326 BA)
The Gators — who have yet to lose an SEC series this season — will look to clinch their eighth straight conference series at 4 p.m. Saturday on SEC Network+.