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UF Softball: Season ends with 6-0 loss to Georgia

Courtesy of University Athletic Association

BY CHRIS HARRY

WHAT HAPPENED: In a virtual repeat performance from the night before, Georgia ace Mary Wilson Avant silenced the Florida bats Saturday, while multiple Bulldogs home runs flew out of Pressly Stadium to cap UGA’s two-game sweep of the Gainesville NCAA Tournament Super Regional. The Bulldogs got to UF starter Elizabeth Hightower early, as Hightower hit the first batter she faced, Savana Sikes, then gave up a double to Sydney Kuma and RBI-single to Lacey Fincher before registering her first out. Hightower limited the damage that frame to a 1-0 deficit, but Georgia’s big bats — the Bulldogs ranked 11th nationally in 2021 in home runs — came alive from there. Jaiden Fields, the younger sister of former Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields, smashed a towering solo home run to left off the roof of the pitching lab, her second big fly in as many days, for a 2-0 advantage in the second inning. Jayda Kearney then crushed a line drive solo shot off that bounced off the JumboTron in left center in the third inning, chasing Hightower for Katie Chronister. In the fifth, Sikes drew a lead-off walk, then Kuma launched the biggest fly of the game (of the weekend, maybe of the year), a rocket homer to dead-center to make it 5-0, with the Bulldogs scratching out a second run in the inning on an RBI single from Sydney Chambley. Offensively, Georgia scored in all but two of its six innings at the plate, with five of the six runs coming on homers. Through it all, Avant was dominant, as the Gators managed just four hits and for the second straight game failed to advance a runner past second base, as Georgia clinched its first Women’s College World Series berth since 2018. Florida, meanwhile, will not go to Oklahoma City for the first time since 2016. That year, the Gators were swept from a home Super by the Bulldogs, as well. UF is now 1-5 all-time against UGA in NCAA Tournament play. 

PLAY OF THE GAME: Kuma’s homer in the fifth was a monstrous smash that drew a gasp from the KSP crowd as soon as it left the bat. UF center fielder Cheyenne Lindsey just turned and watch it go. The ball didn’t just clear the 220-foot fence in dead-center, but clipped the top of a palm tree behind the ESPN camera tower.

IN THE SPOTLIGHT: In throwing every pitch of the two-game sweep, Avant (20-10 / 2.60 ERA) held the Gators scoreless over her 14 innings, allowed just seven hits, struck out 13, and walked only three. Of UF’s 11 losses during the 2021 season, Avant was the winning pitcher in three of them, but also was handed an 8-1 defeat back on April 5 when the Gators racked up seven hits, including three home runs. That one, it turned out, was an outlier. 

STAGGERING STATISTIC: Georgia lost its last seven regular-season games and finished with a 7-17 record in Southeastern Conference play. The Bulldogs have now won five straight NCAA games, ousting the No. 13 overall seed (Duke) and No. 4 overall seed (Florida) in going unbeaten the last two weekends. Talk about peaking at the right time.  

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UP NEXT: Into the offseason go the Gators. Both second baseman Hannah Adams and pitcher Natalie Lugo have said they’ll take advantage of the NCAA’s free COVID-season option and return for 2022.

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