The No. 6/8 Gator Softball team trounced Florida A & M (15-22, 3-3 MEAC), 9-0 in five innings on Friday, thanks to strong pitching and big bats at the plate. The win pushes their record against in-state opponents to 6-1 this season.
Freshman lefty Delanie Gourley threw a one-hit shutout with just one walk and seven strikeouts to run her record to 12-1 on the season. Three players had multiple hits for the Gators (36-8), who won their fifth consecutive game.
After Gourley fanned three Rattler hitters and one FAMU batter reached on an error in the top of the first inning, the Gator offense started quickly. Sophomore Kelsey Stewart led off the bottom of the first with a single up the middle. The infielder has reached base in every non-SEC game this year. Stewart then stole second base and came home on an RBI single by senior Stephanie Tofft. Florida continued its early rally with a run-scoring base hit from junior Briana Little that plated Tofft.
Florida’s southpaw retired FAMU in order in the second. Junior Jessica Damico hit a one-out single and stole second base, but was stranded as the Gators went scoreless in the frame. The hit marked Damico’s first hit of the season.
The Rattlers drew a one-out walk in the third, but Gourley stranded the runner at second. The Orange and Blue erupted for six runs in the bottom of the frame, sending 11 batters to the plate. The big inning began with a single from Tofft, who scored two batters later on an RBI single up the middle by Taylor Schwarz. Following a walk to Bailey Castro and a single by Briana Little, Taylore Fuller broke the game open with a grand slam to center that made the score 7-0 in favor of the Gators.
Fuller’s grand slam was her third of the year, and the team’s sixth. The sophomore has three of the Gators’ last four slams, all since March 14. Seven of Fuller’s 12 hits this year are home runs, which she says could be a blessing and a curse.
“That’s a good thing and bad thing, I guess. I’m working on it. I want to continue producing for my team, and as long as I’m producing for my team, I don’t really care how many hits I have.”
UF’s breakout inning continued with a single from Stewart, who was lifted for pinch-runner Chelsea Herndon. The freshman stole second and then scored two batters later on Tofft’s second run-scoring single of the game. Once the Gators were retired in the third, Gourley allowed FAMU its only hit of the contest on a well-placed single up the middle. Shortstop Kathlyn Medina made an impressive play to get to the ball, but could not throw the runner out in time.
Florida added another run in the bottom of the fourth on an RBI double by pinch-hitter freshman Justine McLean, who batted in place of Medina. Gourley finished off the one-hit shutout with a 1-2-3 fifth inning, including her seventh strikeout of the night as the Gators earned their ninth mercy-rule victory of the year.
With the victory, Florida improved to 11-0 all-time against Florida A & M. The mercy rule win is the sixth in series history, including the third straight game dating back to 2009. The game also marks the first of two non-conference games for the Gators, which Walton says the Gators can use to improve before SEC play resumes next weekend.
“There are some things we’re still working on in practice, and we’re doing conditioning and fitness and all the things we need to try to do to make a run here at the end. You can’t do that if you’re hurt or tired, so we’re really trying to work hard and get ourselves mentally and physically prepared for the last portion of the season.”
The Gators are back on the diamond Saturday when they host North Carolina State (25-10, 12-4 ACC) at 3 p.m. at Katie Seashole Pressly Softball Stadium.
For comments from Head Coach Tim Walton, Taylore Fuller, and Delanie Gourley, click on the links below:
Walton talks about Delanie Gourley’s performance
Walton talks about the performance of the bench players
Walton talks about the strong offensive performance
Fuller talks about her success at the plate
Fuller talks about Gourley’s performance in the circle
Gourley talks about the team’s recent success