UF Softball: No. 6 Gators’ Late-Inning Rally Foiled by No. 9 Wildcats

The Gators finish SEC Opening Weekend with a 2-1 mark in conference play.
Photo by Tim Casey

Courtesy of University Athletic Association


The sixth-ranked Gators were poised to sweep No. 9 Kentucky with a rally in the bottom of the 7th inning, but the Wildcats managed to escape Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium in extra innings with a 4-2 (9) victory Sunday afternoon. The Gators clinched the series 2-1 with wins on Friday and Saturday.

Florida (17-2, 2-1 SEC) staged a comeback in the 7th inning after the team fell behind 2-0 in the 1st inning to Kentucky (20-2, 1-2 SEC). UK was able to pick up a two-run home run from Erin Coffel to take the early lead.

A pitcher’s duel ensued between starters Elizabeth Hightower and Autumn Humes up until the final frame of regulation.

In the 7th inning, the Gators staged a rally that was initiated by senior Hannah Adams’ solo home run off of reliever Miranda Stoddard. Adams belted a leadoff solo home run over the left center field wall to cut down the Wildcats’ lead to 2-1.

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Charla Echols followed Adams’ home run with a single to left center, and Avery Goelz punched a base hit through the left side with one out to continue the rally. Kentucky forced a pop-up to the circle for the second out of the inning to slow down the rally, but the Gators weren’t finished fighting.

Jordan Matthews stood patient in the box and drew a walk after she worked a 3-1 count to load the bases for pinch-hitter Emily Wilkie. During Wilkie’s at-bat, a diving pitch to the inside hit the dirt and ricocheted off of catcher Kayla Kowalik’s foot, which allowed pinch-runner Katie Kistler to race home and tie the game 2-2.

Both Goelz and pinch-runner Sarah Longley advanced to second and third on the pitch to set up the potential late-inning heroics for the freshman Wilkie.

Wilkie worked a full count at the plate and looked for a pitch she could drive. The Cumming, Ga. native found one and roped a shot to the gap in left center field only to have it robbed by a diving Rylea Smith, who ranged over from her left field position.

In extra innings, Kentucky found the break it needed to secure the win. Renee Abernathy led off the top of the 9th inning with a walk, which was then followed by a SAC bunt, compounded by a throwing error by the Gators defense to put runners on second and third with no outs.

The Gators opted to bring in Katie Chronister for reliever Natalie Lugo (4-1) and turned to a five-person infield in an attempt to get out of the jam. Chronister forced a groundout from Tatum Spangler for the first out, but Smith was able to find a hole in the next at-bat to plate the go-ahead run.

Kentucky tacked on one more run via an infield error to push the lead out to 4-2.

The Gators attempted one more rally in the home half of the inning, as Kendyl Lindaman drew a one-out walk to bring the tying run to the plate, but Autumn Humes (9-1) foiled the effort and forced back-to-back pop-ups to end the game.

The Gators return to action Tuesday, March 16, with an exhibition contest against Team USA at 6 p.m. ET on the SEC Network+. Gator Greats Michelle Moultrie, Kelsey Stewart, and Aubree Munro will return to KSP Stadium to play while preparing for the Tokyo Olympics.

Notable Notes:

  • The Gators’ all-time series record against the Wildcats is now 54-15 and 28-7 when playing at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium.
    • The program is now 7-2 against UK when playing during SEC Opening Weekend.
    • The loss to the Wildcats is the first at KSP Stadium since April 29, 2012.
    • UF is now 3-2 against teams ranked inside the Top 25.
    • With the wins Friday and Saturday, the Gators clinched its fourth straight series against Kentucky.
  • Catcher Julia Cottrill caught two baserunners attempting to steal in today’s game and has now thrown out five on 12 attempts this season.
  • Today the Gators put 29 balls in play, which includes five hits, during 30 at-bats.