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

Florida Beats Kentucky In SEC Home Opener, 10-2

A grand slam. Back-to-back homers. A 275-foot bomb. No. 10 Florida gave No. 23 Kentucky a warm welcome to Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium for the SEC home opener Friday.

And, among the rain and the fans’ orange clothing, the team completed a familiar task. UF (27-4, 3-1 SEC) run-ruled Kentucky, 10-2, for the 21st time this season.

On the Mound

Keagan Rothrock (13-3) seemed to be locked in for the first two innings. She struck out the side in the first inning and she pitched her way out of the second.

She faltered when the rain started to fall. Unable to get a firm grip on the softball, her strikes turned into balls. She walked two and gave up three singles. Kentucky (20-9, 0-4) scored two runs.

However, as the rain stopped, Rothrock regained her footing. She ended the game with only one earned run, seven strikeouts and five hits.

Rothrock has only given up earned runs in seven of her 18 games. She’s never given up more than three runs in a game. This keeps the Gators competitive and never far away from a win.

When It Counts

The Florida offense returned to Gainesville from the Fort Myers trip red hot to face a ranked opponent in the three-game series. While Korbe Otis drove in runs every time she stepped up to the plate, Florida’s home runs ended the game in five innings.

Otis talked in the news conference about what it means for her to find success with the Gators after transferring from Louisville:

Reagan Walsh continued to surpass her career home-run record. She launched a grand slam home run over the center field fence.

“Luckily enough she pitched the ball up, so I was able to handle that. It felt great. A great feeling,” Walsh said.

She said her approach at the plate has changed as she has matured.

Ariel Kowalewski and Mia Williams had back-to-back home runs. The Gators knocked out two pitchers in the third.

 

Umpiring

Beyond the scoreboard glitches and rainfall, the Gators’ fans dealt with a pitching staff that was reduced to two umpires during the first inning.

Keith Kearney, the third base umpire, stumbled in between plays. Gators’ staff ran out with cups of water and the game was paused long enough for him to sit down out of play. Both William Lopez Pellot and Chris Nabors continued.

However, the Kentucky and Gators fans didn’t seem pleased about their calls. Whistles and jeers rang out at perceived missed calls. Some fans screaming about a strike zone which they felt was inconsistent.

By the bottom of the third, Kearney had returned to help the other two finish out the remaining two innings.

Up Next

Game 2 is set for a 3 p.m. start Saturday and will air on SEC Network+, ESPN 98.1-FM/850-AM WRUF.

Then, they travel to Starkville, Mississippi, to play No. 20 Mississippi State next weekend.

About Liana Handler

Liana Handler is a sophmore at the University of Florida, studying sports journalism.

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