Record crowd watches Gator softball walk-off in extras

The first of two matchups this year between the third-ranked Florida softball team and Florida State (26-22, 5-1 ACC) lived up to the hype.

In front of the largest home crowd ever for a Gator softball game (2,443), Florida came from behind to defeat Florida State 7-3 on a walk-off grand slam by Briana Little in the bottom of the eighth inning.

Seminole pitcher Lacey Waldrop (6.2 IP, 0 ER) led her team to the brink of victory. The sophomore right-hander struck out a career-high 18 batters while only allowing three hits.

Despite her efficiency in the circle, Florida was able to capitalize on FSU errors. Florida got on the board in the third when a passed ball, which should have ended the inning, allowed Florida second baseman Kelsey Stewart (1-5, R, SB) to score from second.

The Seminoles answered back by pushing three runs across in the top of the fourth, sparked by a Morgan Bullock triple (4-4, 2 RBI).

However, Florida ace Hannah Rogers (8.0 IP, 3 ER) kept the Gators in the game. She struck out eight in the complete game win, picking up her 18th win (third most in the nation) in the process.

Finally in the bottom of the seventh, Florida was able to get something going offensively. Down to their final out, the Gators (32-3, 7-2 SEC) put two runners on base following consecutive walks brought right fielder Kelsey Horton (1-4) to the plate.

Horton chopped a 2-1 pitch towards FSU third baseman Courtney Senas, who fielded it for what would-be the game ending out. However, instead of tagging Lauren Haeger as she ran to third, Senas chose to throw the ball to first base instead; her throw sailed high and both Haeger and fellow sophomore Briana Little scored.

Tied at three, the game would go to extras.

Despite not scoring an earned run and only having three hits offensively, the team ranked ninth in steals would still have a chance to swipe one from their interstate rival.

After Rogers shut down the Seminoles in the top half of the inning, Gator head coach Tim Walton watched shortstop Katie Medina double down the rightfield line to lead off the eighth.

After centerfielder Kristi Merritt was hit by a pitch, FSU reliever Monica Perry (0.2 IP, 4 ER) intentionally walked Lauren Haeger, bringing up Briana Little with one out and the bases loaded.

With a 2-1 count, Little sent a ball screaming over the scoreboard in left-centerfield to walk Florida off and give the Gators their 13th come-from-behind win on the season.

Florida extended its winning streak against the Seminoles to 10-straight, and Little’s walk-off was the Orange and Blue’s seventh grand slam of the season. The Gators are also now 4-2 in extra inning contests.

Up next, the Gators hit the road for the first time in over two weeks as they look to continue their six-game winning streak against SEC rival Ole Miss (19-18, 1-8 SEC). The Rebels have the lowest winning percentage amongst teams in the Southeastern Conference, and they also rank last in earned run average. Game times for this weekend are 7 p.m. on Friday, 3 p.m. on Saturday, and 2 p.m. on Sunday.

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