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Gators Kick Off NCAA Softball Regionals With Pal Egan Walk-Off

The Florida Gator softball team entered their first game in the Stanford Regional looking to turn some heads. Thanks to an electrifying finish and Pal Egan’s late-game heroics, they managed to do just that.

Florida came away with a 3-2 victory over the Loyola Marymount University Lions on Friday evening. The Gators now advance to the winners’ bracket of their Regional Tournament, where they will face the Stanford Cardinal.

Friday’s game saw an uncharacteristically slow start for UF’s offense. The Gators only scored one run in the first six innings and entered the final inning of play down 2-1. However, a home run from Sarah Longley and an RBI single for Egan boosted Florida to a last-second comeback win.

Charla Echols and Kendra Falby also finished with a pair of multi-hit outings for the Gators. Falby chipped in with one RBI as well.

In the circle, Elizabeth Hightower and Rylee Trlicek combined for a strong performance to keep the Lions in check. Hightower got the start and allowed five hits, three walks and two runs (one earned) through 4.1 innings. Trlicek pitched the final 2.2 innings and did not allow any hits, walks or runs to close out the game. Both pitchers combined for seven strikeouts on the day.

An Early Stalemate In The Batter’s Box

The game started out with little to no action at the plate for either squad. Florida only recorded a single hit in the first three innings on a single from Falby. LMU did not fare much better, only knocking in two hits of their own during that span. At the end of the third inning, the score still sat at 0-0.

Falby then managed to break the stalemate in the bottom of the fourth inning. After Sam Roe bunted for a single, she advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt from Emily Wilkie. She then landed on third base via a fielder’s choice. Falby proceeded to crack an infield single to the LMU shortstop that drove Roe home. Florida had now finally taken the lead at 1-0.

LMU did not go down without a fight. Gabby Villa kicked off the fifth inning with a solo shot over the left field wall to tie the game. Later in the inning, Izzy Jamgotchian gave the Lions a 2-1 lead with a knock into left field to score Sydney Poole. After LMU had reclaimed the lead, Florida sent Trlicek into the circle to prevent any further bleeding.

Florida could not respond in the bottom of the fifth. Despite a two-out single into center field from Echols, the Gators failed to bring in any runs in the inning. The sixth inning was more of the same. Falby secured a two-out walk and a stolen base to give UF a runner in scoring position. Nonetheless, Florida stranded her on the base paths yet again, and they continued to trail the Lions.

Egan Puts The Gators On Top

Trlicek started off the seventh inning strong for the Gators. She sat down the Lions 1-2-3 in the top of the inning to prevent any more runs from scoring. With that said, Florida still needed one last spark in the batter’s box to come away with the win.

Sarah Longley woke the Gators up just in the nick of time. On just the second pitch she saw, Longley blasted a solo shot into the left field to tie the game. As Longley marched around the bases, Florida’s dugout had finally come back to life.

The Gators now had all the momentum they needed to finish this one off. Reagan Walsh belted a single into the left field gap to put the winning run on base. Christina Wellen came in to pinch run for Walsh, giving UF an immediate speed threat on the basepaths.

Echols built the count up to 3-2 in the next at-bat before cracking an infield single at the LMU pitcher that advanced Wellen into scoring position. Pal Egan now had a golden opportunity to put this game on ice. She fell behind early in the at-bat, picking up two strikes on the first two pitches she saw. But on pitch number three, Egan did not miss a beat.

Egan sent a ball right down the middle, and Wellen took off running. As the Lions center fielder scooped up the ball and prepared to make the throw, Wellen rounded the corner at third. The throw came in too late, as Wellen slid into home plate with ease. She bounced back up and roared in triumph. Pal Egan had just given the Florida Gators a postseason walk-off win.

Up Next For The Gators

Florida will face off against Stanford on May 20 in the winners’ bracket round of the regional. First pitch is set for 5:00 p.m. EST. If the Gators defeat Stanford, they will be one win away from the Super Regionals round of the NCAA Softball Tournament.

 

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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