Behind a career performance from freshman starting pitcher Chelsea Wilkinson, the Georgia Bulldogs (35-16, 12-7 SEC) were able to pull out a 3-2 win over the Florida Gator softball team (45-6, 14-5 SEC) on Friday evening at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium.
Wilkinson struck out a career high 14 batters in seven innings of work and did not allow a run until the game’s final inning. The freshman attacked the Gator batters with a variety of three offspeed pitches, and Florida head coach Tim Walton says that was part of the reason his team struggled at the plate.
The game was scoreless through the first four innings as Florida ace Hannah Rogers matched Wilkinson pitch for pitch and had a no hitter going through 4.2 innings. However, with two outs in the fifth and a runner on first base, Bulldogs catcher Katie Browne came up to the plate next and ripped a double to right center scoring the runner from first.
The score remained at 1-0 until the seventh inning. After a single Browne hit another double to center field and a run scored on an overthrow to third base by Florida freshman center fielder Kirsti Merrit, which allowed Browne to advance to third. Browne was pinch run for by junior Tiesha Reed who scored on a bunt single by Bulldogs’ outfielder Samantha LaZear.
Despite being down three runs in the final frame the Gators did not go down without a fight. Florida loaded the bases in the bottom of the seventh after a leadoff walk to Brianna Little, a Bailey Castro hit-by-pitch, and a bunt single from freshman Kelsey Stewart. Merritt then came up and after a 15 pitch at bat, and drew a walk bringing Little home.
Castro then scored after a sac fly from Florida sophomore Lauren Haeger, but that was all the damage the Gators would do. Florida senior outfielder Kelsey Horton came up next and hit a ball hard to third base but it was fielded by Swafford.
Walton says despite the loss, he was proud of the fight his team showed thorughout the entire game.
Game two of the series will begin Saturday noon. It will be Senior Day at the park as Gator seniors Kelsey Gorton and Ensley Gammel will be honored before the game.