Softball beats FSU 7-3

Sophomore Briana Little (Middleburg, Fla.) ripped a walk-off grand slam over the left-center scoreboard in the bottom of the eighth inning to break a 3-3 tie between the No. 3 Gators and Florida State Seminoles Wednesday evening, giving Florida softball a 7-3 victory in front of a school-record crowd of 2,443 at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium.

For the Gators (32-3, 7-2 SEC), the walk off was their second-consecutive and fifth of the season, as the Orange and Blue improved to 4-2 in extra-inning games in 2013. Little blasted her team-leading third grand slam of the season for the game-winner. The Seminoles moved to 26-11 this year after the hard-fought battle.

The Share A Little Sunshine Showdown, Florida vs. Florida State Game was presented Wednesday by Visit Florida. Share a Little Sunshine is Visit Florida’s campaign to encourage all Floridians to invite their friends and families to Florida to boost tourism and help our state’s economy.

The Gator and Seminole softball squads will square off again in Tallahassee for the second game between the two programs this year April 17 at 6 p.m. Florida will enter the contest riding a 10-game win streak over Florida State.

Trailing the Seminoles 3-1 in the bottom of the seventh with two outs, UF took advantage of a costly FSU miscue when senior Kelsey Horton (Valrico, Fla.) put a ball in play to plate two runs and knot the contest at 3-3. Sophomore Lauren Haeger (Peoria, Ariz.) and Little both drew two-out walks for runners on first and second for the Gators in the bottom of the seventh before Horton sent a grounder to the Seminole third baseman, who then overthrew first base allowing both Haeger and Little to scamper home for the tie ballgame.

Florida then loaded the bases with two down in the bottom of the seventh after a junior Stephanie Tofft (Lincoln, Calif.) walk and freshman Taylor Schwarz (Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.) hit-by-pitch, but a strikeout retired the side and sent the Gators and Noles into extras, UF’s sixth extra-inning contest of the season.

After Florida starting hurler Hannah Rogers (Lake Wales, Fla.) held the Seminoles scoreless in the top half of the eighth, including her eighth strikeout of the evening, Florida put together a winning rally in the home half of the frame.

Sophomore Katie Medina (Downey, Calif.) roped a leadoff double in top of the eighth to right field before freshman Kirsti Merritt (Lake Panasoffkee, Fla.) was hit by a pitch for runners on first and second, one out for UF. The Seminoles then opted to intentionally walk Haeger to juice the bags for Little. The Gator outfielder delivered with the team’s seventh granny of the season to walk the Gators off with their 32nd win of the season.

Rogers picked up the win for Florida, improving to 18-2 on the season, while FSU relief pitcher Monica Perry was charged the loss (13-7) after closing out the seventh and tossing the eighth. Seminole starting hurler Lacey Waldrop worked the majority of the contest for Florida State, holding UF to three hits and one run through 6.2 innings before the Noles’ seventh-inning defensive miscue,  fanning 18 Gators on the evening. Rogers allowed just two earned runs, three walks and had eight Ks on the evening.

Florida drew eight walks, six free passes from Waldrop, two from Perry, to help manufacture offense and put together its 13th come-from-behind win of the season.

In a tightly-contested match-up, UF was first to get on the board in the bottom of the third inning after the Gators scratched a run across on a dropped third strike, allowing freshman Kelsey Stewart (Wichita, Kan.) to cross the dish from second for the 1-0 Gator lead.

The Seminoles responded with a three-run fourth inning, fueled by a Morgan Bullock two-RBI triple to deep center field and followed by a Bullock run scored when the Noles capitalized on a Gators’ passed ball for the 3-1 lead.

Both hurlers went to work in the fifth and sixth innings for zeros on the board before UF knotted the game in the seventh to set up the game-winning heroics.

Stewart, Little, Horton, Tofft and Medina accounted for UF’s five hits against Florida state, Tofft with her team-leading 10th double of the season in the bottom of the fourth. Haeger and Tofft tied for the team lead, each drawing two walks.

Bullock was 4-for-4 to lead Florida State at the plate Wednesday evening.

Courtesy of UF Communications