Softball tops FSU with walk-off


Florida batter Briana Little hits a walk-off grand slam in the bottom of the eighth inning against Florida State on Wednesday in Gainesville. The Gators beat the Seminoles, 7-3, behind Little’s blast.

Matt Stamey/Staff photographer
Published: Wednesday, March 27, 2013 at 11:00 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, March 27, 2013 at 11:51 p.m.

A two-out, two-run Florida State throwing error in the bottom of the seventh inning gave third-ranked Florida new life.

An inning later, sophomore Briana Little crushed the Seminoles’ upset bid.

Little cranked a one-out, walk-off grand slam over the scoreboard in left center in the bottom of the eighth inning as the Gators (32-3, 7-2 SEC) rallied for their 13th come-from-behind win of the season with a 7-3 victory over FSU (26-11, 5-1 ACC) before a school-record crowd of 2,443 Wednesday night.

“As long as we have a strike on the board, we’re going to fight and try to win a game,” senior Kelsey Horton said. “I’m just so happy for Bri right now.”

Trailing 3-1 with two outs and runners at second and third in the seventh, Horton hit a grounder to the left of FSU third baseman Courtney Senas, who speared the ball cleanly but sailed her throw over the head of the first baseman, allowing Horton to reach base and both UF runners to score.

Perry relieved FSU starter Lacey Waldrop at that point and proceeded to load the bases on a walk and a hit batsmen before escaping the two-out, bases-loaded jam with a strikeout.

But she gave up a lead-off double to sophomore Katie Medina to start the eighth, and, after a strikeout – the 20th of the game for FSU pitching – Perry hit freshman Taylor Schwarz before intentionally walking UF cleanup hitter Lauren Haeger to load the bases.

Little stepped in and took the first pitch, then rocked the next one for her game-winning, no-doubter, her sixth round-tripper of the season.

“At first I was struggling with their pitcher (Waldrop), but this pitcher was throwing a little bit harder so I was ready for it,” Little said. “Intentionally walking Lauren to get to me just pumped me up even more. I saw one pitch, and then she gave me another one so I just hit it out of the park.”

The win, UF’s sixth in a row, also extended Florida’s winning streak over the Seminoles to 10 games despite a stellar effort by Waldrop, who kept UF batters off-stride with her off-speed stuff and struck out a career-high 18 batters while allowing only three hits in 6 2/3 innings.

All three Gator runs she surrendered were unearned.

“I think it was a good night for Lacey Waldrop,” UF head coach Tim Walton said. “She pitched really well. She had really good stuff tonight and it was a really good performance on her part.

“It was more great pitching than bad at-bats. We were missing balls by two feet, so give her credit.”

UF broke a scoreless pitcher’s duel in the bottom of third, plating a run when freshman Kelsey Stewart alertly raced all the way home from second on a swinging third strike by Haeger that got past FSU catcher Celeste Gomez, with Haeger beating Gomez’s throw to first and Stewart scoring on the throw.

But the ‘Noles got to UF ace Hannah Rogers for three runs in the top of the fourth, with the big blow a two-out, two-run triple by Morgan Bullock, who was 4-for-4 on the night to lead all hitters.

The Gators, who had just five hits in the game, had a chance to do some damage in the sixth when they loaded the bases with one out, but Waldrop rebounded with back-to-back strikeouts to escape the jam.

But her defense let her down in the seventh, and the Gators took full advantage to tie the score and force their sixth extra-inning game of the season, four of which they have now won.

Rogers (18-2) picked up the win, scattering seven hits over eight innings and tossing her 12th complete game of the year, while Perry (13-7) took the loss.

The Gators will head to Ole Miss for a three-game SEC series this weekend.

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