Gators drop series opener to Tide
Published: Friday, March 21, 2014 at 10:00 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, March 21, 2014 at 10:11 p.m.
Visiting Alabama scored three times in the first inning on a pair of home runs and the No. 7 Crimson Tide went on to post a 4-2 win over No. 2 Florida in the opening game of a three-game SEC series Friday night.
Who: No. 7 Alabama (29-4, 7-0 SEC) at No. 2 Florida (29-3, 4-3)
When: 1 p.m.
Where: Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium
Playing in front of a standing-room only crowd of 2,036 at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium, Alabama (29-4, 7-0) remained unbeaten in SEC play while the Gators (29-3, 4-3) suffered their third league defeat.
“It's tough to swing the bats when you're down four runs,” UF coach Tim Walton said. “Three right out the gate changes the whole complexion of the swings.”
Alabama's Kaila Hunt followed up Andrea Hawkins' one-out bunt single in the top of the first with a two-run home run to left off UF freshman starter Delanie Gourley, her eighth homer of the year, and junior Jaydn Spencer later added a solo shot in the same direction to give the Tide a quick lead.
They added a single run in the fourth on a two-out, RBI single by sophomore Haylie McCleney, the SEC's leading hitter who came into the game batting a lofty .563.
Senior Tide pitcher Jaclyn Traina did the rest, holding the Gators scoreless through the first six innings on just one hit – a first-inning, one-out double by freshman Chelsea Herndon – before running into trouble in the bottom of the seventh.
The Gators ended up plating a pair of runs on two walks, a single by Taylor Schwarz and an Alabama throwing error, and with Kelsey Stewart on third and two outs, brought the tying run to the plate in the form of Stephanie Tofft.
With the Florida fans on their feet and making their most noise of the night, Tofft just missed a game-tying home run by sending a deep fly ball to straight-away center that was caught by the McCleney with her back against the fence for the final out of the game.
“We have to make our adjustments earlier,” said Lauren Haeger, who threw two scoreless innings of relief for UF. “We have to have better at-bats earlier for us to come up from four runs down.”
Traina (10-2), who walked seven batters and struck out six, picked up the win with a complete-game, two-hitter, while Gourley (11-1), who went five innings, suffered her first loss.
The teams meet in game two Saturday at 1 p.m.