During the Gators' game against the Stetson Hatters on Wednesday, March 29, 2023 at Katie Seashole Pressly Softball Stadium in Gainesville, FL / UAA Communications photo by Ashley Ray

Emily Wilkie Hits Walkoff Grand Slam To Lift Gators Past USF

The Florida Gator softball team originally planned for a double header with the USF Bulls on Wednesday evening. However, travel complications for the Bulls led to the plans being reverted to a single game. That one game ended up providing more than enough entertainment for the fans in attendance, thanks in part to some late-game heroics from Emily Wilkie.

The Gators walked away with a 7-3 win over the Bulls on Wednesday night. With the score tied at 3-3 in the bottom of the seventh inning, Wilkie blasted out a walk off grand slam to secure the win in style for Florida.

Reagan Walsh and Skylar Wallace helped keep Florida afloat earlier in the game. Walsh kickstarted the Gators’ offense with a two-run homer in the first inning. She finished the day going 3-for-4 at the plate. Skylar Wallace chipped in with a 2-for-3 performance at the plate with one RBI and one run scored.

Elizabeth Hightower got the nod in the circle for Florida. In five innings pitched, she gave up four hits, one walk and three runs while striking out four batters. Rylee Trlicek replaced her in the sixth inning and went on to pitch the final two innings. Trlicek ended up allowing one hit, zero walks and zero runs.

Gators Get Ahead Early

Florida got off to a nearly perfect start to the evening. In the top of the first inning, Hightower sat down the top of the Bulls order on a ground out, strikeout and fly out. Wallace then led off the bottom of the first with a single before stealing second base. Wallace eventually advanced to third as Walsh entered the batter’s box.

Walsh wasted little time in her at-bat. With the count at 2-1, she blasted a ball deep into center field and over the fence. Just like that, Florida had jumped out to a 2-0 lead.

“I was just looking for a good pitch to drive into the gap,” Walsh said. “She pitched me a ball up, and I took it the other way. I was really just trying to get Skylar home and do my job for the team.”

The Bulls managed to respond with a run of their own in the second inning. After Rian Eigenmann knocked a two-out single, Jordyn Kadlub brought her home on an RBI double in the following at-bat. Florida then got the run right back in the bottom of the inning. Sam Roe reached first on a hit-by-pitch and eventually came home on a single into right center from Wallace.

The third inning came and went quickly for both sides. Both the Bulls and Gators went down 1-2-3 at the plate. USF had two pop outs and a ground out, while UF hit two fly outs and a foul out. Florida still held on to a 3-1 lead after three innings of play.

USF Responds In The Fourth

The Bulls finally broke through on the bats in inning number four. Meghan Sheehan led things off with a line drive single into left. She then advanced to second on a wild pitch. Hightower looked to get back on track after the wild pitch, but USF’s Vivian Ponn had other plans.

Ponn launched a no-doubter home run past the scoreboard in left field. The Bulls had made it a tie ballgame. Hightower subsequently forced a pop out before striking out the final two batters of the inning. However, USF had already done enough damage to stake their claim in the game.

Florida had plenty of opportunities to respond in the batter’s box, but they could not capitalize on them. Wilkie knocked in a single to center field in the bottom of the fourth, while Wallace secured a two-out walk. Both Wilkie and Wallace ended up stranded on base following a Kendra Falby strikeout looking.

In the bottom of the fifth, the Gators managed to load the bases with two outs on the board. After singles from Reagan Walsh and Sam Roe, Sarah Longley walked to first to give UF three runners on base. None of them ended up scoring, as Wilkie grounded out to third to keep the score at 3-3.

The sixth inning proved to be more of the same. Avery Goelz led off with a line drive into right field for Florida and advanced to second on a ground out from Wallace. Two quick outs in the next two at-bats left Goelz at second and the stalemate continued.

Emily Wilkie Takes It All

Trlicek made easy work of the Bulls in the top of the seventh inning. She forced a fly out to left field before two ground outs retired the side for USF. Now the Gators had the chance for a walk-off victory.

Walsh led off with a line drive down the left side. Pal Egan faced a 3-2 count before earning a walk. Sam Roe then executed a sacrifice bunt to advance both runners into scoring position. USF elected to intentionally walk Sarah Longley to set up a potential double play. The stage was now set for a hero to rise up. Only one question remained; who would it be?

With the bases now loaded and the entire crowd on their feet, Emily Wilkie steps out from the on-deck circle and enters the batter’s box. The first pitch comes in. Ball one. Wilkie lets the next pitch fly by. Ball two. Now the crowd begins to get antsy. As does USF’s pitcher. Wilkie, however, keeps her cool. She knows this is her moment.

The next pitch goes right down the middle. Wilkie swings her bat and swings it hard. The ball soars into the heart of center field and clangs off the scoreboard. A no-doubt home run. Ballgame. Emily Wilkie walks it off, and the entire dugout pours out to home plate as she marches around the bases.

“It was awesome to have my teammates’ back, and to know that we’re all doing it together, we all have the same goal,” Wilkie said. “Rounding third, and seeing coach and the team there just smiling big for me, that was huge.”

Florida will hit the road this weekend for a series with the Tennessee Volunteers. Game one will take place on April 22, with first pitch set for 4 p.m.

About Jack Meyer

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

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