In almost every sport, you know a matchup between Florida and Florida State is going to be dramatic. Wednesday night’s softball game that pitted the No. 3 Gators against the No. 1 Seminoles was nothing short of a fight to the very end. After a long pitching duel, Florida finally broke through in the bottom of the seventh inning to give the Gators the 1-0 walk-off win.
A Battle From the Start
Senior Delanie Gourley got the start for Florida in the circle. In the first inning, the Noles came quick out of the gate as they got three of their four total hits in the top of the first. FSU was able to get a hit with a runner in scoring position, but thanks to a laser throw from Amanda Lorenz in left field to Janell Wheaton at home plate the Noles could not score. Gourley said she was speechless after the play was over.
After the first inning, Gourley settled down. She would only allow one more hit in the game. In fact, behind lock-down Gator defense, FSU would never send more than four batters to the plate in one inning. In the sixth inning, Gourley was relieved by sophomore Kelly Barnhill to finish the game.
The Sunshine Showdown is all @GatorsSB.
Florida has won 17 of the last 18 over Florida State. pic.twitter.com/WeVUcraPSH
— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) April 13, 2017
The contest between these in-state rivals brought on the battle between the best pitching staffs. Florida has the lowest era in the country at 0.72, and the best offense. FSU leads the nation in team batting average at .367. By the end of the night, the Gators prevailed as Delanie Gourley (7) and Kelly Barnhill (3) combined for ten strikeouts from the circle. It was Florida’s 24th shutout of the season.
Florida at the Plate
Florida’s offense found ways to get on base throughout the contest, but they struggled to get their runners in to score. FSU starting pitcher Jessica Burroughs held Florida to just two hits, both by Wheaton, through 6.1 innings pitched, before she was relieved by Meghan King.
— Florida Gators (@FloridaGators) April 13, 2017
In the bottom of the seventh inning, Florida got its first multi-hit inning. This was all the Gators needed for the victory. With one out and the bases empty, Justine McLean singled on a bunt to the third baseman. Amanda Lorenz followed with a groundout to the first baseman which allowed McLean to advance to second base.
Nicole DeWitt would walk next, giving Florida runners on first and second with two outs. Kayli Kvistad, who had a similar opportunity to score runs for her team in the fifth inning, did not waste her second chance. The outfielders were playing deep, so when she hit a soft line drive to right field, that was all McLean needed to round third base and score the game-winning run. After the game, Kvistad said she was glad that she got another chance to help her team win.
At Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium, Florida broke their record for the largest crowd with 2,574 people in attendance. The record had most previously been beaten April 8 in the series opener against Georgia. Throughout the game, the fans from both teams were very loud and supportive of their team. Nicole DeWitt says she is happy to see that softball is growing a bigger fanbase.
These teams will meet again on May 3 in Tallahassee, Florida. Until then Florida will face more SEC battles including one against Kentucky. The Gators will travel to Lexington to play the Wildcats in a three-game series starting Friday night.