Charla Echols singles up the right-field side against Mississippi State in the quarterfinals of the SEC Softball Tournament. (Photo Credit: @GatorsSB / Twitter)

Gators Softball Struggles Mightily In Final Day Of Mary Nutter Classic

The Florida Gator softball team started out its season with a 10-0 record. They have now gone 1-3 in their last four games.

UF concluded a turbulent weekend at the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic in Palm Springs, California, with two losses in a doubleheader against the No. 24 Oregon Ducks and the Cal State Fullerton Titans. Earlier in the weekend, the Gators suffered a 10-0 run-rule loss to No. 1 UCLA and defeated UC Riverside 7-0. Needless to say, the Gators did not get the ending they wanted (or expected) on Sunday.

The Gators only managed to record a single hit against the Ducks, courtesy of Kendra Falby. Their offense eventually showed some signs of life against the Titans, albeit to no avail. Sam Roe went 3-for-4 at the plate and knocked in a run in the seventh inning. Katie Kistler, Charla Echols and Falby each recorded an RBI as well. Nevertheless, UF’s dominant offensive prowess was nowhere to be found on Sunday.

Elizabeth Hightower ended up having a rough day in the circle, taking the loss in both games on Sunday. She started against the Ducks and pitched for 4.1 innings, allowing six hits, five runs and two walks. Hightower then went on to relieve starter Lexie Delbrey against the Titans.

In three innings pitched, Delbrey gave up four hits and three runs to the Titans. Hightower then pitched for the remaining four innings, surrendering four hits and two runs. Hightower managed to keep Cal State Fullerton off the scoreboard in regulation but gave up a walk-off home run in extra innings.

Gators Go Nearly Hitless Against Oregon

Florida’s first matchup of the day could not have gotten off to a worse start. Hanna Delgado led off for the Ducks with a triple into right field. Two at-bats later, Allee Bunker blasted out a home run to give Oregon a 2-0 lead. In the bottom of the inning, the Gators sat down 1-2-3. A ground out for Falby. A strikeout for Kaila Pollard. A fly out for Echols.

The Gators managed to keep the Ducks off the board in the next inning, but once again could not produce at the plate. A fly out for Reagan Walsh. A line out for Olivia Gigante. Another line out for Sam Roe. Oregon pitcher Stevie Hansen had Florida’s offense in a chokehold all game long.

Oregon chalked up another home run in the third inning. This time, KK Humphreys belted out a solo shot to give the Ducks a 3-0 lead. By the time the bottom of the inning came around, the Gators once again sought to generate some momentum in the batter’s box. And once again, they could not get anything going. A ground out for Avery Goelz. A foul out for Sarah Longley. A fly out for Kistler.

Falby finally made it on base in the fourth inning due to an error from the Oregon infield. Nonetheless, the subsequent three batters were dropped like flies. The next inning comes around, and the Ducks snag their third home run of the day. Terra McGowan homered into left field to drive in another two runs and give her squad a 5-0 lead.

Gator coach Tim Walton elected to replace Hightower with Rylee Trlicek midway through the fifth. Trlicek patched things up until the seventh inning. Bunker then hit her second home run of the day to cap off Oregon’s lead at 8-0.

Florida Falls Short In Extras Versus Cal State Fullerton

The Gators once again struggled in the batter’s box early on against the Titans. In the first three innings, UF recorded zero runs, zero hits and two walks. Delbrey managed to keep things relatively under control in the circle up to the third inning. However, the Titans landed two runners on base via a Gator fielding error and a single into right field.

Despite Florida securing two outs and nearly keeping Cal State Fullerton scoreless, a home run from Hannah Becerra put three runs on the board for the Titans.

By the fourth inning, the Gator offense had begun to unthaw. Florida managed to load the bases in the top of the fourth but failed to drive any runs in. In the following inning, Falby drove a single up the middle and eventually scored on a ground ball from Echols.

In the sixth inning, Roe and Avery Goelz scored thanks to a fielding error from the Titans and another single from Falby. All of a sudden, the game was once again tied at 3-3. UF once again managed to load up the bases, but their hopes of reclaiming the lead were dashed following a double play for Cal State Fullerton.

Both teams proceeded to go scoreless in the seventh inning, leading to an extra innings battle. With Goelz placed on second base to start the eighth, Kistler drilled a single into left field to bring her home. However, another double play prevented the Gators from doing any more damage at the plate.

The Titans only needed one at-bat to respond. With a runner placed on second, Beccera blasted out her second home run of the day to give the Titans the 5-4 win. Florida had now gone 0-2 on the day and 1-3 on the weekend.

Up Next For The Gators

Florida may face a tough fall from grace in the rankings this week. They currently sit at No. 3 in the ESPN.com/USA Softball rankings, but it remains unclear where they will land in the next poll.

In the meantime, the Gators will return to the diamond next weekend in an away series against the University of Alabama at Birmingham Blazers. Their first game will take place on March 3 at 7 p.m.

About Jack Meyer

Jack Meyer is a third-year student at the University of Florida. He is majoring in Journalism and specializing in Sports and Media.

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