Florida beats South Carolina to win SEC softball series

Graham Hall
Special to The Sun

A day after celebrating the team’s four seniors, the No. 3-ranked Florida softball team defeated South Carolina, 4-2, in the rubber game Sunday to claim the series against the Gamecocks at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium. 

“Give credit to our pitching. Our pitching has really done a good job of being able to keep an average offense with an opportunity to win ball games a lot,” UF coach Tim Walton said. “We just have a hard time being able to generate things, and I think that’s probably one of the frustrating things for me, is there’s no way to score runs unless it is by home run or walk or whatever. We’ve got to be better.”

Senior right-hander Natalie Lugo struck out four Gamecocks and gave up just five hits in 5.2 innings in the circle in securing the win for the Gators (35-7, 14-4 SEC) and improving to 13-1 on the season. Lugo didn’t take part in Saturday’s ceremony, and she cleared up her future after the series had been secured. 

“I just didn’t want to have my four years here be cut to three-and-a-half. I love this team and this program so much,” Lugo said, “and I just want one more season with this team.”

With help from a pair of errors by the Gamecocks, the Gators went up 2-0 in the first inning before adding a third run on their next trip to the plate. South Carolina got one back in the fourth inning when catcher Jordan Fabian homered to left field, though Florida would retake the three-run lead in the bottom half of the inning on a sac-fly that scored sophomore Sarah Longley. 

Gainesville native Katie Chronister, one of the four seniors recognized prior to Saturday’s 6-0 win, entered for Lugo in the sixth inning. She would allow a run and three hits as the Gamecocks made a last-ditch rally. 

South Carolina had the potential game-winning run at the plate after Chooch Carroll doubled deep to left field, scoring Riley Blampied, and Kenzi Maguire reached first on a fielding error, but Chronister struck out Mackenzie Boesel for the second out before Kassidy Krupit grounded out to let the Gators escape with the win and the series. 

Florida returns home Wednesday to host Florida A&M University, with first pitch set for 6 p.m.