After rain-delayed Game 1 loss, UF softball comes back to force Game 3 with Virginia Tech
It wouldn't be a true NCAA Super Regional experience without a little rain. Or, in the case of Virginia Tech and Florida, a lot of rain.
The third-ranked Hokies and No. 14 Florida softball team waited out a three and a half-hour rain delay before throwing in the towel at 7 p.m. Friday and suspending the game until Saturday morning.
But by then, the damage had already been done.
After four full innings on Friday, Virginia Tech had built a 6-0 lead, which went on to be the final score as the game finished just an hour before the game two's first pitch, which came at noon.
Despite it all, the Gators' heads are still above the water as Florida forced Sunday's if-necessary Game 3 after a 7-2 win over the Hokies on Saturday afternoon.
"What a great job by our team," coach Tim Walton said. "Obviously the first day didn't go our way ... they were able to get through that and regrouped."
Here are takeaways from games vs. Virginia Tech.
Game 1 rain delay:Florida Gators vs. Virginia Tech in NCAA softball super regional Game 1
Hokies swing for the fences Friday
With the Gators' senior ace Elizabeth Hightower in the circle, the Hokies jumped out early thanks to a solo home run off the bat of sophomore Emma Ritter in the bottom of the first inning.
But the Hokies were far from finished. In Virginia Tech's next at-bat, the Hokies strung together a pair of hits and collected a pair of outs before sophomore Cameron Fagan jabbed the Gators with a three-run home run to give the Hokies a quick, 4-0 lead.
Virginia went on to add a run in the third inning thanks to a RBI double from junior Kelsey Bennett, bringing the Hokies' lead out to five runs.
All the while, the Gators were struggling to generate any kind of offense against the Hokies' ace, senior Keely Rochard, who went the distance in Game 1 and gave up just four hits, no runs and struck out five.
Just before Tech Softball Park was emptied due to lightning, Ritter returned to the plate and delivered a knockout blow with her second solo home run of the day.
The Gators and Hokies returned to the field 18 hours later, but neither team scratched across a run in the final inning.
Gators win Game 2 pitching duel
Florida couldn't have asked for a rockier start from its pitchers after Hightower and fifth-year Marissa Mesiemore gave up three home runs and 11 hits to Virginia Tech.
Saturday, however, was a much better outing for the Gators' staff of pitchers.
Starting Game 2 for Florida was freshman Lexie Delbrey, who seemed to work her way in and out of trouble all afternoon.
In her first Super Regional appearance, Delbrey lasted 4.1 innings in the circle, gave up five hits, two earned runs and struck out five. However, the freshman tallied seven walks on the day, which has been something Delbrey has struggled with all season.
Fortunately for the Gators, Virginia Tech was dealing with pitching troubles of its own.
The Hokies also gave the nod to their rookie, allowing freshman Emma Lemley (4.0 IP, 7 hits, 5 runs, 5 strikeouts) to start in the circle on Saturday.
Lemley, who was named ACC Freshman of the Year earlier this month, continued her season-long trend of being called for illegal pitches. More times than not, Lemley "crow hops" during her delivering, lifting her back foot off the clay, which is illegal in college softball.
The Virginia Tech freshman was called for six illegal pitches on Saturday, which are called balls in the pitch count.
Both teams eventually went to the bullpen, calling for veterans to polish off the game.
For the Gators, fifth-year Natalie Lugo entered the game in the fifth inning and dealt all the way through the end of the game, giving up just one hit, striking out three and keeping the Hokies off the scoreboard.
Meanwhile, Virginia Tech called upon Rochard, who only pitched one inning before being relieved by sophomore Ivy Rosenberry.
Rochard's brief outing was likely the result of the Gators taking a comfortable lead in the fifth inning and Virginia Tech head coach Pete D'Amour realizing that he'd likely need his ace's arm in Game 3.
Florida finds its bats
After being shutout in game one, the Gators' lineup returned to its postseason form in game two.
Florida, which had outscored opponents 28-2 in the Gainesville regional last weekend, tallied 10 hits against Virginia Tech in Saturday's win, with the top of the lineup leading the charge.
The Gators' one-, two- and three-hole hitters each turned in multi-hit performances with freshman Kendra Falby going 2-for-4, senior Hannah Adams going 2-for-3 with a double and redshirt junior Skylar Wallace going 2-for-3 with a pair of doubles.
Florida's first run of the day came thanks to a fielding error from Fagan, which allowed senior Charla Echols to reach first and bring across Falby from third.
But the Gators really started applying the pressure in the fifth inning, despite having given up the lead.
Trailing 1-2, Florida returned to the plate and led off with a pair of baserunners after Adams was tattooed with a pitch and Wallace doubled. Echols immediately followed with a no-out double to centerfield, which scored both Adams and Wallace.
The Gators continued to pass the bat as freshman Reagan Walsh was hit by a pitch, sophomore Katie Kistler reached on a RBI fielder's choice and freshman Sam Roe put down a RBI sacrifice bunt, giving Florida a 5-2 lead heading into the sixth.
Florida went on to tack on a pair of insurance runs in the sixth, before Lugo forced a three-up-three-down inning to secure the win.
Following the win, the Gators and Hokies will return to action at 2 p.m. Sunday in a winner-take-all Game 3.
The winner Sunday will secure one of eight spots in the Women's College World Series.