Coming off a five-game win streak, the Florida Gators (44-8, 18-7 SEC) were looking to sustain their momentum with a mid-week game against in-state rival Florida State (27-23, 8-9 ACC) before a pivotal SEC series against Tennessee.
FSU pitcher Sarah Hamilton pitched a complete-game one-hitter for the Seminoles, but it wasn’t enough to top Florida.
Senior second baseman Aja Paculba blasted a one-out solo shot to left field in the bottom of the second inning to give Florida a 1-0 win.
“I was just looking for a good pitch, especially with two strikes,” Paculba said. “She hung it right there and I saw it like a beach ball, so I just swung at it.”
The hit was enough to help overcome the Gators’ suddenly lifeless lineup and top their in-state rivals for their sixth straight win.
Florida’s players credited Hamilton with a great outing.
“Hamilton’s a great pitcher,” Paculba said. “She really kept us off-balance all day, and I think that really contributed to it.”
Still, for a lineup that averaged 7.6 hits per game during their five-game winning streak prior to Wednesday night, the lack of hitting was a little surprising.
The first four hitters in the lineup combined to go 0-11 at the plate, snapping junior center fielder Michelle Moultrie’s 19-game hit streak one shy of teammate Megan Bush’s school record.
“There are so many other great hitters in our lineup that it’s kind of shocking I got the only hit,” Paculba said.
Even head coach Tim Walton was a little surprised to come away with a win despite being outhit 6-1 by the Seminoles.
The lone hit was Florida’s lowest offensive output of the season and their first one-hit game since Paculba scored the game-winning run in a 1-0 win over East Carolina on Feb. 21, 2010.
“I didn’t think that was enough to beat them,” Walton said. “They’ve really been swinging the bat pretty decent. But Aja came through.”
Florida’s pitchers also put together a dominant outing despite allowing the six hits, two of which came in a tense final inning.
Senior Stephanie Brombacher gave up two hits early in the first inning before retiring 12 straight batters. She worked 4.2 innings and was pulled in favor of freshman Hannah Rogers after giving up a two-out single in the fifth.
“I was just hitting my spots and spinning the ball,” Brombacher said. “I kind of got away from that the first inning and then just got in my groove, spun the ball and let them get themselves out.”
Rogers came on and pitched well in relief of Brombacher before a shaky final inning gave the Gators a scare.
She sat down six of seven batters before getting into a little trouble in the top of the seventh inning.
After going up 1-2 in the count on FSU’s Celeste Gomez, Rogers gave up a bloop single over Bush’s head at first base.
She got ahead of Briana Hamilton 0-2 in the next at-bat before Hamilton slapped a ball down the first-base line. Bush misplayed it in front of the bag, and Hamilton narrowly avoided the tag as she ran past Bush.
Again, Rogers got up 0-2 in the count on Courtney Senas before the FSU center fielder lined a single to right field.
Kirstin Austin, pinch running for Gomez, rounded third base and made it halfway home before a great throw home from Florida right fielder Brittany Schutte forced her back to third base.
With the bases loaded, Rogers got up 0-2 in the count again. FSU’s Morgan Bullock hit a ball sharply to third, but freshman Kasey Fagan fielded it cleanly and made the throw to first for the final out.
“They’re a really good team, but we just pulled together as a team,” Rogers said. “I just tried to keep my cool and not get too ahead of myself. I just tried to take it pitch by pitch.”
The Gators return to action Friday at 4:30 p.m. at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium in Gainesville, Fl. For a weekend series against Tennessee (44-7, 20-5 SEC).