Softball splits twin bill
Published: Tuesday, April 24, 2012 at 8:10 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, April 24, 2012 at 8:10 p.m.
With two of the SEC’s top pitching tandems squaring off in the last conference midweek doubleheader of the season, runs figured to be at a premium when No. 2 Florida and No. 23 LSU met Tuesday.
That certainly turned out to be the case as the two squads split a pair of tight pitchers’ duels, with Florida (42-6, 19-3) taking the opener, 2-1, on senior Michelle Moultrie’s walk-off RBI double in the bottom of the eighth inning, while the Tigers (33-16, 14-8) took the nightcap, 1-0, before a Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium crowd of 963.
Moultrie’s clutch hit in the first extra inning of the opener scored freshman Jess Damico with the game-winning run. Damico was hit by a pitch by LSU’s Rachele Fico with one out and came all the way around to score on Moultrie’s line drive just inside the left-field line, sliding just ahead of the throw home to give Florida a win that looked like a sure defeat minutes earlier.
A pinch-hit, RBI single in the top of the seventh by LSU’s Kailey McCasland had ended a scoreless duel between Fico and UF sophomore All-America Hannah Rogers and put the Tigers in great shape to pull the upset, 1-0.
It looked all the more bleak for UF when Fico retired the first two Gator batters in the bottom of the inning and got a 1-2 count on junior right fielder Ensley Gammel, who had struck out in her previous two plate appearances. But Gammel drove the next pitch over the fence in right field for her sixth home run of the year to tie things at 1-all, firing up both the Gator dugout and the crowd.
“That was probably one of the first opposite-field home runs of her career,” UF coach Tim Walton said. “I thought she really fought through that at-bat, and it was really key to our success that game.”
“I just knew I had to fight for my team, so that’s what I did,” Gammel said. “I didn’t let the first two strikes affect me.”
Rogers, who allowed just one run on four hits, struck out five while improving to 25-3.
Fico (15-8), who was one pitch away from picking up a two-hit shutout, was tagged with the loss despite striking out a season-high 11 batters.
The Gators fell behind in the nightcap as well, as LSU’s Ashley Applegate ripped a one-out triple in the top of the second off UF freshman starter Lauren Haeger and came in to score on catcher Lauren Houston’s RBI single.
LSU starter Brittany Mack (14-8) took it from there, shutting out the Gators on four hits to pick up the win while out-dueling Haeger (12-3), who suffered her first loss in SEC play.
All four starters tossed complete games.
Florida had a chance to stage another come-from-behind win in game two, loading the bases in the bottom of the sixth with just one out. But after a visit from LSU coach Beth Torina, Mack was able to retire freshman Bailey Castro on a pop up and Gammel on a grounder to second to end the threat.
UF got two runners on with two outs in the bottom of the seventh, but Mack struck out freshman Sami Fagan to end the game and end a seven-game Florida winning streak.
“It was the same mood as the first game,” Gammel said. “We wanted to go up there and fight and we did. It just didn’t work out for us.”
The loss, just the second for the Gators in their last 15 games and second at home all season, left UF, the SEC East leader, in a deadlock with No. 4 Alabama (42-4, 19-3), the SEC West leader, for the overall conference lead with six league games remaining.
The Gators host Kentucky (23-26, 10-12) for a three-game SEC series this weekend before closing the regular season with a three-game series with the Crimson Tide in Tuscaloosa May 4-6.
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