Florida 2 UCF 1

The No. 3 Gator softball team defeated in-state opponent UCF, 2-1, amidst rainy conditions late in the contest at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium Wednesday evening. With UF leading 6-1 with one out in the bottom of the sixth, the contest was called due to a downpour resulting in a 2-1 final, the score through the fifth and last complete inning played between Florida and Central Florida.

The Gators improved to 9-2 against UCF all-time under Florida head coach Tim Walton, including their eighth win against the Knights in Gainesville. On the season, the Orange and Blue moved to 36-3 overall and the Gators will carry their 10-2 SEC record into a weekend set at home with Mississippi State April 5-7.

Florida utilized its entire pitching staff in Wednesday’s clash with UCF, with sophomore Alyssa Bache (Clearwater, Fla.) earning the start and tossing two innings of scoreless ball, giving up three hits and one free pass. Sophomore Lauren Haeger (Peoria, Ariz.) handled the third and fourth frames for the Orange and Blue. Haeger used one strikeout and gave up one walk and two hits, while the Knights scratched across a run in the third before junior righty Hannah Rogers (Lake Wales, Fla.) came on for the fifth and sixth for UF to earn the victory.

Rogers worked two innings of one hit scoreless relief, including four strikeouts, to improve to 21-2 on the season for the Orange and Blue in the circle.

Despite being out-hit by the Knights, 6-2, the Gators took advantage of 13 free passes and two hit-by-pitches to help manufacture some offense. Freshmen Kelsey Stewart (Wichita, Kan.) and Taylor Schwarz (Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.) accounted for Florida’s two hits in Wednesday’s match-up.

Most notable among the walks and hit-by-pitches for the Gators was sophomore Briana Little’s (Middleburg, Fla.) 14th hit-by-pitch of the season in the bottom of the sixth, one shy of the school-record 15.

Sophomore Jessica Damico (Gray Summit, Mo.) drew a bases-loaded RBI walk in the bottom of the first to take the Gators ahead 1-0 early, started by a Stewart leadoff walk, followed by her 28th stolen base of the season. A Haeger one-out walk, followed by a Little walk on illegal pitch juiced the bags and Damico’s patience at the plate paid off with the base on balls for her 16th RBI of the season.

The Gators took advantage of another Mackenzie Audas illegal pitch in the bottom of the second with runners on second and third to plate Florida’s second run of the game. First, freshman Kirsti Merritt (Lake Panasoffkee, Fla.) turned over the UF lineup with a one-out walk before Stewart dropped a blooper over the third baseman’s head for a double, moving both Gators into scoring position to set up the run on Audas’ second IP of the game.

Florida took a 2-0 lead to the third for Haeger, on in relief, where the Knights scratched their first run across during a rundown between first and second, allowing pinch runner Lauren Aldridge to bridge the gap, 2-1, crossing home from third.

After a scoreless fourth for both teams, the Gators turned to the bullpen again, bringing on Rogers to finish it out. The Gators’ ace allowed just one hit in the fifth and fanned two in the stanza before striking out two in the top of the sixth as well. Rogers gave up one walk each in the fifth and sixth.

While the score in the books is a 2-1 victory in five innings, stats count through the sixth for both teams and the Gators took advantage. The Orange and Blue first added a third run in the bottom of the sixth with a senior Ensley Gammel (Bakersfield, Calif.) bases-loaded RBI walk with one down, thanks in part to Little’s 14th hit-by-pitch of the season that loaded the bags for Gammel.

With rain beginning to fall and the Gators up, 3-1, both teams continued to work. Next up, sophomore Katie Medina (Downey, Calif.) got in on the walks, drawing her 11th walk and plating her 11th RBI of the season when Haeger came home, extending UF’s lead to 4-1.

UCF then traded Audas for relief pitcher Shelby Turnier. Facing Schwarz, a Hayley Barrow passed ball accounted for UF’s fifth run when Little scampered home taking UF up, 5-1. Schwarz drew UF’s 13th and final walk of the day for bases loaded to set up a RBI for Gator freshman catcher Taylore Fuller (Trenton, Fla.) after UF’s second hit-by-pitch of the night. With UF ahead, 6-1, the rain became too much, with the umpires calling the contest at that point.

Audas (7-13) shouldered the loss for the Knights (18-21, 1-11 C-USA) after working 5.1 innings with 12 walks, 11 strikeouts, while giving up just two Gator hits, but six total runs through the contest.

Courtesy of UF Communications