Special to The Sun
TUSCALOOA, Ala. — For a second straight game, the No. 15-ranked Alabama softball team found itself in a bases-loaded jam against No. 4 Florida on Sunday.
This time, Alabama weathered the storm, survived a similar potential disaster in the third inning and answered every Florida challenge en route to a 3-2 win that evened the key three-game SEC series. The rubber game will be played Monday at 7 p.m. (SEC Network).
“Tough loss today,” UF coach Tim Walton said. “We had plenty of chances to get on the board early, but we just couldn’t get the big hits with runners in scoring position. To get the series win tomorrow we have to come out and pitch well and swing the bat a little bit better.”
Crimson Tide starting pitcher Courtney Gettins struggled with control in the first inning, which saw three walks and an error by UA. But Gettins started a home-to-first double play and added a strikeout to end the inning.
Alabama followed by scoring a run in the bottom of the inning as Alyssa Brown singled, stole second and scored on a hit by Kaylee Tow.
Gettins faced another bases-loaded, no-out jam in the top the third but escaped on an even more spectacular double play as left fielder Merris Schroeder caught a fly ball and threw out Florida’s Kayli Kvistad at home plate.
The Gators (33-6, 8-3 SEC) tied the game on Sophia Reynoso’s solo home run in the top of the fourth, but Alabama immediately answered on a solo home run by Bailey Hemphill in the bottom of the inning.
Florida pulled even again in the top of the fifth as Aleshia Ocasio hit a sun-aided, two-out triple, then scored on a double by Janell Wheaton. Once again, Alabama (25-10, 6-5 SEC) used the long ball in response as Sydney Booker drove the ball over the left field wall for her fourth home run of the year.
Alexis Osorio, the Crimson Tide’s Saturday starter, had entered the circle in the fifth inning and blanked the Gators over the final two innings, raising her record to 9-4 on the season. Ocasio (14-4) took the loss for Florida.
A crowd of 3,767, the largest Rhoads Stadium throng of the season, saw the contest.
Lacrosse: At Philadelphia, a complete team effort led No. 7 Florida to 18-8 win over Villanova, marking UF’s third consecutive win of 10 goals or more.
Villanova’s Christine Graziano scored the game’s first goal, before Florida (10-3, 5-0 Big East) quickly took control of the contest by way of a 10-1 run through the first 19 minutes of action. The Gators would force a running clock in the first half, taking a 14-4 lead into the locker room.
Seven different Gators scored at least one goal in the first half, led by four from junior midfielder Sydney Pirreca. Florida’s defense limited Villanova (6-6, 1-4) to just 12 first half shot attempts, with junior Haley Hicklen recording all five of her saves in the first 30 minutes.
Juniors Sydney Pirreca and Lindsey Ronbeck tied for a game-high four goals apiece, with Ronbeck’s five points leading all scorers. Grace Haus, Madisyn Kittell, and Shayna Pirreca each added two goals for the Gators.
“Our energy level throughout the game was terrific and I think it showed,” UF coach Amanda O’Leary said. “We were able to make substitutions early on in the first half and keep everyone’s legs fresh during the second half. Shannon (Kavanagh) did a great job for us in the draw circle, and helped us control possession of the ball for the whole game.”
The Gators will welcome Marquette (9-4, 5-0) to Donald R. Dizney Stadium at 12 p.m. Saturday in a battle for first place in the Big East.
Men’s tennis: At Baton Rouge, No. 9 UF beat LSU 7-0. Alfredo Perez-Johannes Ingildsen and Chase Perez-Blanco-Oliver Crawford won their doubles matches to give the Gators the doubles point. Then UF (14-8, 8-3 SEC) rolled through singles play after wins from Ingildsen, Crawford, Perez, Perez-Blanco, Andy Andrade and McClain Kessler.