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

Florida Softball Drops Game 1 to South Carolina in High Scoring Showdown

The number 11 Florida softball team fell 13-10 to South Carolina in a battle on the base paths Friday evening at South Carolina.  The South Carolina win marks only their third victory in 20 years against the Gators, and only their second SEC win this season.

Chaos in the Second

Sophomore Lexie Delbrey started the game for the Gators. She has a 1.92 ERA, the best on the Florida pitching staff. Delbrey was put to the test in the second inning. The Gamecocks put up four runs and pushed her to 36 pitches very early on.

The rally started with Aniyah Black, who got hit by a pitch. This came to no surprise to the Gamecock dugout as the team is third in the SEC in the hit by pitch statistic. Next, Marissa Gonzalez placed the ball in right center for a single, as second basemen Reagan Walsh made a shift towards second base. Power hitter Jordan Fabian walked to load the bases and Emma Sellers was hit by a pitch to put the first run on the board for the Gamecocks.

Aaliyah White started the swings for South Carolina. She smashed a hard groundball to Walsh who tried to tag a runner on her way to second base and after she threw wildly to first for an error.  This initiated havoc on the base paths. Gonzalez and Fabian both scored to make it 3-0 South Carolina. Sophomore Brooke Blankenship earned herself an RBI shortly after with a perfectly executed bunt down the first base line. She scored Sellers to make it 4-0 Gamecocks heading into the third.

Gators Bounce Back

Skylar Wallace was the first baserunner for Florida in the third inning. Wallace has reached base in 28 straight games and she dropped a bunt down with one out and nobody on base to start the rally.  Sophomore Kendra Falby was due next. She has 40 hits on the season, the most in the SEC, but went 0-11 in her last SEC games. Nonetheless, Falby executed a hard slap down the left field line for a hit but she was thrown out trying for second base on the hit.  Wallace went to third.  After that, 2022 All-American Charla Echols walked for Walsh to do some damage in the box and she did with a double off the glove of Gonzalez that scored both Wallace and Echols. The Gators ended the top of the third inning down 4-2.

A Momentum Shift

The Gamecocks made it clear that they were not done yet. Zoe Laneaux started the fourth with a single to right field. Riley Blampied followed with a shot to Echols over at third for a single. Up next for the Gamecocks was Black. She was hit by a pitch for the second time.

With bases loaded and no outs, the Gators put Rylee Trlicek in the circle.  The team usually relies on her for her lefty curveball and backdoor curveball. In this situation, she looked to jam the South Carolina offense and keep the ball down.

In the first Florida defensive play behind Trlicek, Echols carried out a double play. She stopped Laneaux from scoring and retired Gonzalez at first base. Unfortunately, that wasn’t enough to stop the Gamecock offense. Jordan Fabian came up to the plate with two outs and doubled off the center field wall to score Blampied and Black. The Gamecocks ended the third inning with a 6-2 lead.

The Scoreboard Explodes

Pal Egan was the hero in the fifth inning for the Gators. She was the only player to push a run across on both sides. Egan scored Wallace, who walked earlier in the inning, to give the Gators a run but they still trailed 6-3.

The sixth inning was an offensive explosion for both teams as each squad scored seven runs.  The Gators began their offensive show with three walks. Sam Roe, Goelz and Kistler, respectively, and that initiated a Gamecock pitching change. Leah Powell threw for a mere four at bats. Falby preceded Powell’s downfall with a base hit to left center, scoring Roe and Goelz on the play, making it 6-5. Powell intentionally walked Echols to juice the bases. Walsh, fire under her feet, walked to tie the game for the first time.

Bailey Betenbaugh entered the circle for South Carolina with the bases still loaded. The Gamecocks hoped that Betenbaugh’s killer changeup would influence a defensive shut down. Unfortunately for them, that was not the case. Emily Wilkie forced Betenbaugh to throw a nine-pitch at bat right out of the gate and Wilkie ended up reaching on a walk to score Falby, which marked the Gators first lead of the game 7-6.

Roe, who started the inning, came up again and she cleared the bases with a stand up triple to right center. The Gators turned a 6-3 deficit into a 10-6 lead just like that.

A Fourteen Run Inning

The competitive nature of the game continued when South Carolina performed in the same way, putting up seven runs on their side of the scoreboard. Trlicek gave Blankenship and Jen Cummings a free base with a walk and a hit by pitch, respectively. That marked the 14th time Cummings has been hit by a pitch, the most in the country. Then, Laneaux doubled up the middle to score Blankenship, cutting the Gamecock deficit to 10-7.

Trlicek fought back in a brutal at bat against Gonzalez. Trlicek struck her out, but Wilkie let the ball past her and that allowed Laneaux to score, making it 10-8. Rattled, Trlicek hit a batter and that plated another run to make it a 10-9 game.

The Gamecocks took the lead when Sellers singled up the middle to score two runs and South Carolina freshman Hannah Hawley singled to shallow left to score two more.  That would end up being the final score of the game.  Florida is now 3-4 in SEC play and will try to win the second game of the series in Columbia on Saturday.

About Lauren Halpern

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