The Gators softball team huddles up before their game against Tennessee at the 2023 SEC Softball Tournament on Friday. Photo courtesy of Hannah White.

Gators Stay Alive In NCAA Softball Regionals After Splitting In Day 2 Action

The Florida softball team was pushed to the brink of elimination in the Stanford Regional on Saturday afternoon. But if the Gators have proven anything throughout the 2023 season, it is that they refuse to ever back down. After a major bounce-back performance on the same day, UF now remains one of the final two teams standing in their region.

Florida suffered an 8-0 loss to the Stanford Cardinal in their first game of the day. The Gators then responded later that evening with a 10-5 win over the Loyola Marymount University Lions. With LMU and Long Beach State now officially eliminated, it will all come down to a rematch between Florida and Stanford.

Gators Key Performers

The Gators only managed to record two hits against the Cardinal, courtesy of Skylar Wallace and Kendra Falby. Elizabeth Hightower subsequently struggled in the circle, allowing five hits, four walks and six runs (five earned) through three innings. Stanford then tacked on two more runs in the following two innings to secure a mercy rule victory by the fifth inning.

Florida fared much better both in the circle and the batter’s box against LMU. Charla Echols, Reagan Walsh and Katie Kistler each knocked out a home run to fuel a powerful performance at the plate for the Gators. Falby chipped in with a 3-for-3 performance in the box, finishing with two runs scored as well.

In the circle, Rylee Trlicek managed to hold the Lions at bay throughout the night. Through her first six innings pitching, Trlicek only allowed four hits, zero walks and three runs while striking out five batters. She went on to face some turbulence in the final inning, allowing three runs to score on a pair of LMU homers. Nonetheless, she managed to string together three more outs to finish off the complete game and secure the win.

Stanford Dominates Florida In Game One

The Gators initially held their own against the Cardinal in their first match up of the day. UF only gave up one hit through the first two innings, with their only run allowed coming off of a fielding error in the second inning.

However, Florida could not get anything cooking in the batter’s box. A two-out single from Wallace in the top of the third proved to be the team’s only source of offense through the first five innings.

Consequently, Stanford took over the game in the bottom of the third inning. Taylor Gindlesperger led off with a single up the middle to give the Cardinal a runner on base right away. Aly Kaneshiro immediately followed with a deep ball over the left field wall to extend Stanford’s lead to 3-0.

It only got worse for Florida from there. After Emily Young reached first on a walk, Kylie Chung hit another single up the middle. Young then reached third base on a fielder’s choice that saw Chung tagged out at second. Hightower then walked Emily Schultz to load the bases with just one out.

Young proceeded to score on a wild pitch that advanced the two remaining runners into scoring position. Sydney Steele brought both runs in on a powerful double down the left field line. Hightower picked up two quick outs in the next two at-bats, but the damage had already been done. Stanford had taken full control with a 6-0 lead after three innings.

The Gators failed to recover from their disastrous third inning. Other than a single from Falby in the top of the sixth inning, Florida failed to come up with any response in the batter’s box as the game went on. Stanford went on to score on a bases-loaded walk in the fourth and a fielding error in the sixth to put the game on ice.

Gators Bounce Back In Game Two

Following their loss in their first game of the day, the Gators now faced a do-or-die situation. Florida now had to face off against LMU, who had already given them some trouble earlier in the tournament. The Gators managed to squeak by with a 3-2 win in their first meeting with the Lions. But this time around, Loyola Marymount did not come close.

Florida came out of the gates swinging as if they wanted to kill an ant with a sledgehammer. Wallace started off with a bang, sending a deep double into left-center in her first at-bat of the game. Falby followed her up with a single and stolen base to give UF two runners in scoring position. Echols then brought Wallace home on an RBI fielder’s choice, while Falby scored on an RBI single from Kaila Pollard.

Avery Goelz led off the following inning with a well-hit triple into right field. She immediately scored on a Sarah Longley single. After Wallace and Falby loaded the bases with a hit and a walk, respectively, the Gators managed to bring in two more runs. Longley scored on a ground out from Echols, while Wallace made it home on an LMU fielding error.

Bombs Away Late In The Evening

The runs kept coming for Florida as the game went on. In the fourth inning, Falby hit another single up the middle before being tagged out at second on a fielder’s choice from Echols. With a runner still at first for UF, Walsh smashed a ball straight over the center field wall for a two-run homer and a 7-0 lead.

LMU responded in the bottom of the fourth with a pair of singles to score their first run of the game. Florida got that run right back in the top of the fifth via a solo home run from Kistler. This marked her first homer of the season, and a very conveniently timed one, at that.

The Gators then tacked on two more runs in the top of the sixth inning. Falby chalked up her third hit of the day with another single into left field. Echols then blasted another ball over the right field wall for a two-run homer. UF had now extended the lead to 10-1.

Late in the evening, the Lions did manage to string some runs together, but it proved to be too little, too late. Sydney Poole hit an infield single with one out in the bottom of the sixth inning. Izzy Jamgotchian followed her up with a home run into left center to cut the deficit down to 10-3.

One inning later, the Lions knocked out another pair of home runs in their last hurrah of the evening. Adele Braun cracked a two-run homer over the center field wall, while Avery Francis sent a solo shot into left field. Trlicek remained in the circle despite her late-game struggles, and she managed to get the job done. She forced a ground out to third base in the final at-bat of the night to officially keep Florida alive.

Closing Out The Stanford Regional

The Florida Gators will return to Boyd and Jill Smith Family Stadium on May 21 for the final day of the Stanford Regional. They will once again face off against the Cardinal at 4:00 p.m. EST. If the Gators win that game, they will return to the field right away for one final showdown with Stanford. The first pitch for that game would be at 6:30 p.m. EST if necessary.

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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