By JM Soracchi, Correspondent
For the first time since 2011, the Florida softball team suffered a home sweep.
Less than a day after dropping a doubleheader to No. 5 Alabama, the No. 6 Gators (37-12, 9-9) were shut out 3-0 in the series finale at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
Despite out-hitting the Crimson Tide 7-5, Florida left nine runners on base. The inability to drive in runners in scoring position was even more pronounced in all three games – the Gators went a combined 0 for 19 with runners in scoring position while scoring a total of two runs over the three contests.
“We didn’t play particularly well,” said Florida head coach Tim Walton, “but it was bad luck. We hit it well, it was right at someone … just a combination of that, for sure.”
Alabama (45-4, 14-4) got all the offense it needed in the top of the second when senior catcher Reagan Dykes drew a leadoff walk off Florida senior pitcher Kelly Barnhill. Two batters later, Claire Jenkins laid down a sacrifice bunt and reached safely on an error. During the dropped ball at first base, Dykes advanced to third and then scampered home when she realized no one was covering the plate.
Staked to a 1-0 lead and the Gators’ inability to match the lone run, Alabama added insurance runs in the fourth inning via No. 9 hitter KB Sides’ two-run home run off Barnhill which wrapped around the foul pole in right field to put the Crimson Tide up three runs.
Barnhill fell to 25-8 in the circle despite pitching a complete game and giving up five hits. For Alabama, Krystal Goodman threw four innings to improve to 9-0. Crimson Tide teammate Montana Fouts, who got the win in the first game of the series, threw three scoreless innings to earn the save.
No matter what the Gators did, they couldn’t get on the board.
In the fourth and fifth innings, Alabama junior center fielder Elissa Brown made nice catches on a pair of hard-hit balls.
Even when Florida got its first two runners on base in the sixth inning, things wouldn’t tilt the Gators’ way.
Jordan Matthews walked to lead off the inning and pulled for pinch runner Alex Voss. The next batter, Sophia Reynoso, hit a chopper back to pitcher Fouts, who spun to throw out Voss at second base. Initially ruled out on the play, an umpire conference determined the shortstop’s foot was not on the bag; that ruling gave the Gators runners on first and second with no outs.
Florida still had runners on second and third with one out when Hannah Adams lined out right to Alabama shortstop Claire Jenkins, who threw quickly to double up Voss at third base.
Voss being ruled out at third in a bang-bang play drew Walton’s ire. After a brief exchange with the third-base umpire, which Walton declined to comment on after the game, he was ejected.
With just two SEC series left before the start of the SEC Tournament, Florida junior catcher Kendyl Lindaman (who leads the Gators with 14 home runs and 50 RBIs) pointed out what needs to be worked on.
“I think we need to compete harder in those big situations,” Lindaman said. “When you have runners in scoring position, you need to put a hard ball in play, just to get the runners moving and just to challenge the defense of the other team.”
Senior Amanda Lorenz was the only Gator with multiple hits, going 2 for 4.
Florida continues its SEC schedule with a three-game series at No. 14 Auburn starting Friday.
I did not see this game, but no surprise here. When this team faces anything above average pitching in a game, their bats go into deep freeze. As I have posted before, the Gator hitters in most instances step up to the plate and look for a walk, which good pitchers won’t often give them. The other teams have done a great job pitching around Lorenz and Lindaman and then throw strikes to the rest of the lineup with no fear. Interesting that the Gators have the #1 and #2 picks in the pro Softball League draft on their team but have lost so many games.
37-12 record would be pretty good most places, but Coach Walton has raised the bar to record heights. Will take a surprising postseason not to call both the teams on the diamonds in Gainesville in a reloading mode this season. Go Gators