SOFTBALL: Frosh Littlejohn Pitches No-Hitter

It was just like old times for freshman Lindsay Littlejohn Sunday. The freshman from Bartow, who became somewhat of a prep legend in her storied four-year career, pitched just the seventh no-hitter in Florida softball history, helping the Gators to close out the GRU Classic with a 6-0 win over Longwood.

Littlejohn struck out five, walked two and hit two batters as she improved her record to 2-3. The Gators won four and lost two in the three-day tournament, improving their overall record to 7-5.

No-hitters were routine for Littlejohn when she was pitching at Bartow. She finished her high school career with an 83-4 record and a microscopic 0.05 ERA while leading Bartow to two state titles in Class 3A and two more in Class 4A. In 20 state playoff games in her high school career, she didn't allow a single run. Littlejohn had some rocky outings last weekend in Houston in Florida's first action of the season, but she has improved with each game. Sunday, she had everything going for her.

"Lindsay had some good stuff today," Coach Tim Walton said. "She was throwing a little harder today than she was the other day. It looked like she was able to get her curveball a little later in the game. Her rise ball was jumping in the first couple of innings. But she's a competitor. She's out there feeling her position, which makes us happy when's she's able to get outs like that and is capable of taking care of it herself."

Against Longwood, Littlejohn tried to concentrate on putting each pitch precisely where she wanted it. She didn't allow herself to think ahead or worry about anything except throwing that next pitch for a strike.

"Whenever I'm pitching, I don't look at 'Oh, I have myself a no-hitter up until this inning.' I try not to focus on those things." Littlejohn said. "I try to focus on one pitch at a time and just take every batter individually. Obviously though, if it's a no-hitter ... I'm definitely excited about that."

The Gators, who stunned defending NCAA champion Michigan 3-2 Saturday with a rally in the bottom of the seventh inning, couldn't do it twice in a row Sunday. The Wolverines got solid pitching from Stacy Delaney and Jennie Ritter to hold Florida to three hits and they generated enough offense of their own to take a 4-0 win Sunday morning.

Other than freshman Kim Waleszonia, who had two hits, the Gators just couldn't solve Michigan's power-pitching duo.

Michigan loaded up the bases in each of the first four innings off Florida starter Stacey Stevens and reliever Stacey Nelson. The Wolverines got the only run they would need in the third when Becky Marx singled in a run. Further damage was averted when Brooke Johnson made a spectacular grab and tagged third base for a double play.

Marx struck again in the fourth when she doubled in two runs in a three-run Michigan rally. With a four-run cushion and outstanding pitching, the Wolverines were able to cruise to the win.

Florida didn't stay down long, however. Littlejohn came through with her pitching gem in game two and Florida got all the scoring it would need in the second inning.

Lauren Roussell started the Florida second inning with a single and Littlejohn reached on an error. Lindsay Norfleet's bunt single loaded the bases. Waleszonia forced Littlejohn at third but Roussell came home to score. Johnson followed with a walk to load the bases once again and Lindsey Cameron brought in the second run with a sacrifice fly. Butler then unloaded her sixth homer of the season, a blast over the right field wall to put the Gators out front, 5-0. A Melissa Zick double and a Longwood error accounted for Florida's final run of the inning and the game.

From that point, Florida simply relied on Littlejohn's good pitching to cap off a winning weekend. Walton is particularly pleased that the Gators made progress since last weekend's performance in the Houston tournament.

"Overall, I thought we did a good job of bearing down and playing some good defense in some spots." he said. "But really, we're going to spend a lot of time working on our offense this week and try to get the offense generating better selection at the plate."

The Gators face Hofstra in a double header Wednesday in Gainesville.

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