Softball: Arkansas comes from behind to eliminate Florida from SEC Tournament with 4-1 win
Staying true to the storylines of the SEC softball tournament, Friday night's semifinal between the top-seeded Arkansas Razorbacks and the fifth-seeded Florida Gators got off to a late start, before seeing the Gators jump out early and the Razorbacks coming away with a win.
Battling back from a 1-0 deficit, Arkansas topped Florida 4-1 in the weather-delayed tournament's semifinals, spoiling the Gators' homestand tournament run from Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium.
Here are four takeaways from the contest.
Missed opportunities:Rylee Trlicek has a rough time with grounders in Florida softball's SEC Tournament game vs. Arkansas
Tourney opener:Gators survive and advance in SEC tournament with 4-1 win over Texas A&M
Game 2:Florida's offense ignites 9-3 win over Kentucky, sending Gators to SEC softball semifinal
Gators' hot start on offense continues
The Gators kept their trend of finding the scoreboard first on Friday night as Florida's freshman leadoff hitter, Kendra Falby, continued to impress in her first SEC tournament.
"It was a big focal point to try to keep their speed off the bases," Arkansas head coach Courtney Deifel said. "Because they can absolutely create havoc."
While the Razorbacks' infield had snuck in tight, looking to take away the bunt, Falby (1-3) delivered a slap hit that sent a hopper over the third baseman's head, which allowed the speedy rookie to round first and notch a leadoff double.
Florida fifth-year second baseman Hannah Adams (1-3) followed Falby's hit with a single of her own, plating runners on the corners for senior Charla Echols (1-2, RBI), who delivered a sacrifice fly, which pushed across Falby for Florida's lone hit of the night.
"It was pretty big to keep them to one in the first inning," Deifel said. "We saw them get some breaks in their games earlier. And then they capitalized on that and they put up crooked innings and it they never looked back from there."
The Razorbacks went on to force the Gators to hang zeros in each of the following six innings.
UF's Lexie Delbrey sputters before settling in
It was a big stage on Friday night for freshman pitcher Lexie Delbrey, who got the nod to start in the circle for the Gators.
Coming into Friday's semifinal matchup, Arkansas had only seen Delbrey for 0.1 innings in the regular season, which led Deifel to believe that the Gators might go with the rookie to keep them off balance.
In a rocky start to the night, Delbrey went on to walk the first two batters she faced, which triggered UF head coach Tim Walton to take a visit to the circle.
"If you start doing that over and over and over again, it's not mechanics," Walton said, alluding to the freshman's nerves.
Following the visit, Delbrey went on to get out of the jam, forcing a pair of strikeouts and a fly out.
Delbrey went on to force leadoff outs in the second and third innings, while also keeping the Razorbacks hit-less through the first three innings.
Arkansas led off the fourth inning with a single off the bat of senior Danielle Gibson (2-3), who broke Delbrey's no-hit bid. The Razorbacks' lineup continued to pass the bat in the fourth as sophomore Hannah Gammill (0-2) drew a walk, followed by base hit from senior Linnie Malkin (1-3) to load the bases.
"Unfortunately you see the rough starts or the rough goes and then she's going awesome," Walton said of Delbrey. "And then she loses control a little bit at times. But the stuff is there."
Unlucky fourth inning haunts Gators
Florida's fourth inning was fitting for a game played on Friday the 13th.
After Delbrey worked the bases loaded with no outs, Walton called upon junior southpaw Rylee Trlicek to get the Gators out of the jam.
Trlicek forced the first batter she faced to ground out back to circle, making way for an easy underhand toss to home plate, getting the lead base runner out, but keeping the bases loaded.
But when Arkansas junior Audrie LaValley delivered the exact same hit to the exact same spot, Trlicek missed the toss to home plate, allowing the Razorbacks to scratch across a pair of runs.
"We really just got lucky with some breaks," Deifel said. "And some uncharacteristic miscues that you just don't see from Florida very often."
Arkansas would tack on two more runs to take a 4-1 lead before Florida could work its way out of the inning.
Trlicek went on to pitch a gem through the final three innings, giving up just two hits and one unearned run through 4.0 innings.
"I hate losing. And I hate when we beat ourselves," Walton said. "It stinks."
Chenise Delce deals the distance
Arkansas junior Chenise Delce had herself a day on Friday.
After being named SEC Pitcher of the Year earlier in the afternoon, Delce went on to prove she was worthy of the honor against the Gators.
While she, too, took the first inning to settle in, once she did, it was smooth sailing for the Razorbacks' defense.
"I thought Chenise was exceptional tonight," Deifel said.
Delce, who was the main pitcher the Gators saw three weeks ago in the regular-season series, went the distance on Friday night, pitching 7.0 innings, giving up five hits, one earned run and striking out seven.
Delce and the Razorbacks' field retired the Gators in order in the final three innings to polish off the game and send themselves to the SEC tournament championship on Saturday evening.
Predictions:Projecting where every SEC team will land, who it will play in NCAA Softball Tournament
Following the win, Arkansas will turn its attention to the seventh-seeded Missouri Tigers, who upset third-seeded Tennessee 3-0 in Friday's first game of the day.
The Razorbacks' trip to the title game on Saturday will be the first for Arkansas since 1999, when it lost to LSU.
Meanwhile, the Gators will wait until Sunday to learn their fate in the NCAA tournament.