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

Gators 2023 Softball Season Comes To An End In Stanford Regional

After a 2023 campaign filled with plenty of highs and lows, the Florida Gator softball season has officially come to a close. The Gators dropped their final game of the season in their Regional Final matchup against the Stanford Cardinal. On Sunday afternoon, UF suffered an 11-2 loss that officially eliminated them from the NCAA Softball Tournament.

Florida did not go down without a fight, as the team managed to record seven hits on the day. Emily Wilkie led the Gators with a 2-for-3 performance at the plate, while Charla Echols and Reagan Walsh each recorded an RBI. Skylar Wallace and Kendra Falby chipped in to score Florida’s only two runs of the game in the first inning.

In spite of their respectable performance in the batter’s box, the Gators could not contain the Cardinal in the circle. UF ended up using all three of their top pitchers in Sunday’s game, but not one of them lasted for more than three innings. Rylee Trlicek, who got the start in the circle, gave up seven hits, two walks and four runs through 2.2 innings.

Elizabeth Hightower replaced Trlicek midway through the third inning, but did not fare much better. In her two innings in the circle, Hightower allowed a staggering five walks and four runs to Stanford, as well as one hit. Lexie Delbrey took over in the fifth inning to finish off the afternoon. In the final 2.1 innings of the game, Delbrey surrendered three hits, two walks and four runs (one earned).

Gators Cannot Hold On To An Early Lead

Stanford only managed to score one run in the top of the first inning on a Kylie Chung RBI single. Florida immediately took advantage of this opportunity to start the afternoon off strong. The Gators recorded three consecutive singles to lead off the bottom of the first inning. The latter hit, courtesy of Echols, scored Florida’s first run of the game. UF then took the lead on an RBI ground out from Walsh in the following at-bat.

However, as the game went on, Florida’s momentum seemingly vanished. Katie Kistler led off the bottom of the second inning with a single through the right side. The subsequent batters then went down 1-2-3. Stanford proceeded to take the lead right back with a pair of RBI singles from Chung and Kaitlyn Lim in the top of the third.

From there, the Gators never managed to recover at the plate. Wilkie knocked in a two-out single in the bottom of the third, but a ground out swiftly sent her back into the dugout. One inning later, Avery Goelz hit a leadoff double into right field. Before Goelz could even inch towards home, a pair of fielder’s choices and a ground out stranded yet another run on the base paths for Florida.

Stanford Goes On Cruise Control

Stanford eventually made Florida pay for their lack of offensive productivity in the top of the fifth. Hightower struck out the first batter she saw in the inning. However, she then allowed four of the next five batters she saw on base. Delbrey came in to replace her and hoped to escape the jam. The Cardinal batters had other plans.

Taylor Gindlesperger secured a bases-loaded walk to score another Stanford run. Aly Kaneshiro then cracked a single through the left field gap to bring two more runners home. Delbrey forced a ground out in the next at-bat to finally retire the side. But with the Gators already facing a 7-2 deficit, Stanford had already done their job.

By this point in the game, Florida’s resistance had grown futile. Wilkie knocked in another single through the left side in the bottom of the fifth. Yet once again, she ended up stranded on base. The Gators went hitless for the remainder of the game, while Stanford tacked on four more runs in the seventh inning.

Sydney Steele led off the final inning with a solo homer into left field. Ellee Eck reached first base in the following at-bat on catcher’s interference. She then reached third on another Stanford walk and a sacrifice bunt. Eck eventually scored on a sacrifice fly. Emily Young then finished off Stanford’s monster day with a two-run homer over the left field wall. By the time the dust had settled, Stanford had clinched an 11-2 victory and a spot in the NCAA Super Regionals round.

End Of The Road For The Gators

The Florida Gators will now officially finish their year with a 38-22 record. This marks their worst finish to a season since 2006. But despite an underwhelming finish to their 2023 campaign, the Gators still had plenty of memorable moments and bright spots throughout the season.

From National Fastpitch Coaches Association All-Region nods for Wallace, Echols and Falby to multiple exciting match ups and electrifying finishes throughout the season, the Gators have plenty to build upon this offseason. With 2023 now officially behind them, Florida will look to build on what they have already accomplished as they prepare for 2024.

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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