Gators' Skylar Wallace breaks record, stalemate in 6th inning as Florida softball tops USF
Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium hosted an in-state dogfight on Wednesday night as the University of South Florida Bulls visited the ninth-ranked Florida Gators' softball team in a speedy game that was shorter than the Bulls' drive up from Tampa.
Together, the Gators (35-9) and Bulls (35-12) combined for six "three up, three down" innings, making for a game that spanned just one hour and 50 minutes before the Gators found themselves on top with a 1-0 victory, which extended Florida's win streak out to five straight.
Here are takeaways from Wednesday night's all-Florida battle.
Another in-state showdown:No. 2 Florida State gets best of No. 7 Florida in extra innings
Aces Elizabeth Hightower, Georgina Corrick duel in the circle
Coming into Wednesday night's matchup, the Bulls had the second most shutouts of any softball team in the nation with 21. And much of that defensive success comes from All-American right-hander Georgina Corrick, who coming into the game against Florida, held an sub-1 ERA of 0.48.
"That was as good as she's looked in my time seeing her here," UF coach Tim Walton said Wednesday night of Corrick. "We haven't seen her a ton, but that was probably as good as I've seen her look."
Corrick faced just 27 batters through six innings, giving up just one hit, one run, three walks and striking out seven.
While Corrick looked sharp, it was Florida's ace, Elizabeth Hightower, who rose to the occasion, went the distance and secured the shutout. Through seven innings of work, Hightower gave up three hits, walked a pair of batters and struck out six Bulls to earn her 11th win of the season. In an efficient outing, Hightower faced just 27 batters; the minimum she could've seen was 21.
"I thought I hit my spots better than I have in the past," Hightower said of her shutout. "Definitely mixing speeds and maybe, probably worked the outside a little bit more."
Skylar Wallace breaks record, stalemate in sixth inning
Just five days removed from tying Florida softball's single-season stolen base record, redshirt junior Skylar Wallace officially shattered the mark on Wednesday as she stole second base in the bottom of the sixth inning for her 37th swipe of the season.
The record was previously held by Kelsey Stewart, who set the record 2013 and then again in 2014.
Wallace got on base in sixth inning after a one-out walk with the game still scoreless.
Florida's shortstop went on to steal second base with two outs against the Gators to break the record. But Wallace didn't stop there.
USF catcher Josie Foreman attempted to catch Wallace stealing, but the throw went long and dribbled into centerfield, allowing Wallace to hit the gas.
"I always think about racing with the little boys," Wallace said. "I was so competitive and I just wanted to find a way to win. And for some reason, that's just translated to softball."
As Wallace approached third base, Walton waved her around, where she slid into home plate, scoring the lone run of the game.
According to Walton, the Bulls' outfield was in a "no doubles" situation, which meant USF's outfielders were deeper than normal, which led to Walton making the decision to send Wallace home.
But even if her head coach didn't give her the go-ahead, Wallace was home bound.
"Oh, I was not stopping," Wallace laughed. "Unfortunately I was not stopping."
Gators defense adjusts well against USF
For just the second time in her five-year career with the Gators, second baseman Hannah Adams, with a cast on her right hand, was introduced with the non-starters ahead of Wednesday's matchup.
Adams is set to miss at least three weeks of play after suffering a hand injury against Ole Miss on April 15.
More Gators softball:Veteran second baseman Hannah Adams to miss three weeks with hand injury
"We're pretending like Hannah Adams is not going to play for the rest of the season," Walton said. "Just because you have to."
In the absence of Adams, it was true freshman Sam Roe who got the nod to start at second base for the Gators. Roe recorded a pair of putouts on Wednesday.
"Sam has really done a lot of things well for us," Walton said. "It's been really good... Sam's a softball player. I think that's the best way to describe her. She's a really good athlete. She understands the game."
But more than anything, Florida's defense didn't give South Florida extra outs, which has been a point of emphasis for Walton this season.
Senior third baseman Charla Echols and freshman left fielder Kendra Falby each made incredible grabs in foul territory on Wednesday, which helped keep the Bulls at bay.
"It is the key," Walton said of eliminating extra outs. "Especially when we're not striking people out as much as maybe we've done. We just can't afford to give people extra outs. So definitely, when you lose your rock defender, you still play good defense, the communication was still good and everybody was where they were supposed to be... definitely like that."
Following their midweek win, the Gators now prepare for the tall task of hosting No. 6 Arkansas for a three-game series.
Game one gets underway on Friday night at 8 p.m. (ESPNU).