TAMPA - The No.9-ranked Florida Gators earned a 4-1 opening day victory over Illinois State Friday night at the USF Softball Stadium. UF now holds a 23-1 record in season openers and a 32-5 record in games during the opening weekend. Junior Natalie Lugo (1-0) reeled off 11 strikeouts in the effort - which is the fourth time of her career with 10 or more in a single game. Down 1-0 after the 1st inning, the Gators (1-0) used a four-run bottom of the 2nd rally to erase the early deficit that the Redbirds (1-2) had established. Junior Jordan Matthews started the big inning with a leadoff single through the left side, while freshman Julia Cottrill drew a four-pitch walk and senior Jade Caraway ripped a line drive single to load the bases with no outs.
The table was set for an RBI hit by pitch drawn by Hannah Adams to tie the game, which was followed up by Kendyl Lindaman's bases loaded walk.
Sophomore Charla Echols put the game out of reach with her two-RBI double to left field.
From there Lugo handled the Redbirds offense as she only allowed two more hits over the next five innings of play and no walks for her third complete game of her career.
- The Gators improved to 23-1 in opening day games and 32-5 in games during opening weekend. UF now holds a 15-2 against the Redbirds and now have won its last 15 games.
- Lugo notched her fourth career game of 10 or more strikeouts as she struck out 11 Redbirds. 11 - Hampton (3/31/2018) 13 - Jacksonville (2/20/2019) 13 - New Mexico (2/28/2019)
- Tonight was Lugo's third career complete game and third career complete game shutout.
- Walton secured his 895th career victory and sits with an overall record of 895-231 in 18 seasons as a head coach. Next Up The Gators continue play during opening weekend at the USF-Rawlings Invitational with two games tomorrow slated for 11:30 a.m. and 1:45 p.m. against Fresno State and No. 17 Michigan.