Florida’s softball team shined on a sunny Tuesday night taking Game 1 of a doubleheader against LSU with a 2-1 win in eight innings in front of 963 fans at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium.
Senior Michelle Moultrie carried the No. 2 Gators to victory (42-5, 19-2 Southeastern Conference) when she roped an RBI double, scoring freshman Jess Damico against No. 23 LSU (32-16, 13-8 SEC) starting pitcher Rachele Fico.
Fico came into Tuesday’s match-up leading the SEC with an 0.99 ERA. She displayed her excellence by striking out 11 Gators. She only had two mistakes on the day, but that was enough for Florida to capitalize on for the victory.
The Gators found themselves down by a run heading into the bottom half of the seventh with two outs.
Fico had pitched a phenomenal game until that moment.
Sophomore Cheyenne Coyle led off the seventh inning by getting hit with a fastball by Fico. Freshman Bailey Castro then hit into a double play turned by the second baseman.
The crowd was silent. All momentum was lost as the game was all on junior Ensley Gammel’s shoulders.
Gammel came into the game batting a meager .257 with only five home runs on the season.
Gammel fouled off two pitches and found herself down to the final strike of the game.
On the sixth pitch of the at-bat, Gammel connected on an outside changeup, which miraculously sailed over the right field wall, tying the game at 1-all.
The crowd erupted as the ball barely cleared the right field wall and was aided by a breezy day in Gainesville. Kasey Fagan then flied out, sending the game into extra innings.
Sophomore Hannah Rogers retired the side in the eighth after turning a double play generated after a ground ball lined back to her.
With one out in the bottom of the eighth, Damico was plunked by a fastball on her elbow, which allowed her to take first base.
There are players who can be relied on in pressure-filled situations. Michelle Moultrie is one of those players.
Moultrie, a finalist for USA Softball’s 2012 Collegiate Player of the Year, stepped into the box.
Moultrie lined the ball down the left field line scoring Damico on the hit. Damico rounded third as coach Walton furiously waved his arm, sending her home. The ball came into the catcher, but it was too late. Moultrie continued her dominance at the plate and showed why she is a finalist for the award.
Rogers tossed a complete game for the Gators while racking up five strikeouts. Rogers also eclipsed her 60th win with Florida, tying her for fourth in UF career wins with Chelsey Sakizzie (1997-1998) and LSU coach Beth Torina, who pitched for Florida from 1997-2000.
Rogers allowed no runs until the seventh inning when she walked Ashley Applegate to start off the inning. She was moved over to second on a sacrifice bunt by Tammy Wray.
Freshman pinch-hitter Kailey McCasland then drove her home with a single to left field. Once again, the crowd was silent.
The Tigers had their chance to score in the fifth, however. Speedy pinch-runner Alex Boulet took over for Tammy Wray. Catcher Morgan Russell bunted to Medina at third, but shortstop Coyle did not cover third, which made taking third easy for Boulet.
First baseman Dylan Supak hit a deep fly ball to left field that was sure to score Boulet. She tagged and scored on the sacrifice fly, but coach Tim Walton appealed that she left the bag early and sure enough, she did.
LSU had plenty of scoring opportunities but could not capitalize. LSU left six runners on base.
Michelle Moultrie ended up with two of her teams five hits, including the game winner.
Florida will take on Kentucky at 6 p.m. on Friday.
Gator Country reporter Chris Kirschner can be reached via Twitter @C_KirschnerGC. Follow Chris to receive updates of Gators softball.