At the end of the top half of the fourth inning, it looked as if the No. 5 Florida softball team was back.
But in bottom half of the inning, No. 23 Kentucky (24-7, 10-3 SEC) stopped the momentum the Gators have desperately needed handing them their fifth consecutive loss Saturday 7-6 in Lexington. Florida (30-6, 7-5 SEC) is on its longest losing streak since 2005 when the team lost seven in a row.
Florida’s offense came alive during the inning due to two wild pitches thrown by UK freshman Ellen Weaver (6-0), which allowed designated hitter Kelsey Horton to reach first after striking out and her pitch runner, junior Ashley Snedeker, to reach second during Cheyenne Coyle’s at-bat.
Coyle then singled to center and catcher Tiffany DeFelice reached base on a grounder to first that loaded the bases for sophomore Samantha Holle, who hit a double to left-center bringing in two runs and tying the game at 3. Two batters later, second baseman Aja Paculba hit a 3-run blast to give the Gators a 6-3 lead.
Freshman pitcher Hannah Rogers (16-4) could not hold onto the lead for the Gators as Kentucky came out swinging in the bottom of the inning.
The Wildcats brought the score to 6-4 after an RBI-double by center fielder Meagan Aull. Three batters later, Kentucky loaded the bases and third baseman Brittany Cervantes singled to right bringing in two runs to tie the game.
First baseman Samantha DeMartine added an RBI-single to retake the lead, but Rogers got out of the inning without further damage after designated player Lauren Cumbess hit into a double play.
The Gators had a chance to reclaim the lead in the sixth inning as DeFelice led off with a single and center fielder Michelle Moultrie reached on an error by UK shortstop Kara Dill. But Weaver’s replacement in the circle, junior Rachel Riley, retired Paculba and Bruder to end the inning.
Riley (7-2) faced 14 Gators and gave up only one hit while striking out four after coming in relief for Weaver in the bottom of the fourth.
As for Rogers, the lost is her third consecutive in as many games as she has taken on the workload with injured ace Stephanie Brombacher still unavailable with a right biceps injury. Rogers has given up 22 runs on 29 hits in 18.2 innings during that stretch.
The Gators’ offense, which had only eight hits in its last two games before Saturday, put up seven on the board. It also had the opportunity to plate more runs as the Gators left runners on base in scoring position in the first, second and sixth innings.
Florida will look to avoid its sixth consecutive loss, and a series sweep from Kentucky on Sunday afternoon at 1 p.m.
Gator Country reporter Safid Deen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org — You can also follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/safiddeen