Gators softball: UF drops 2 of 3 to South Carolina, 1st time since 2019 it lost back-to-back series

Ainslie Lee
The Gainesville Sun

For the first time since the 2019 season, the Florida Gators softball team has lost back-to-back Southeastern Conference series.

The 11th-ranked Gators traveled to Columbia, S.C., for a three-game SEC series against the South Carolina Gamecocks and will be returning to Gainesville with little to show for it. Florida dropped Friday's and Sunday's games despite outscoring South Carolina 18-17 over the weekend.

The Gators' lone win came from an 8-1 decision on Saturday.

Here's what the weekend looked like for UF:

Early pitching jams bite Florida Friday night

The Gators' fate was decided early Friday night as Florida sophomore Lexie Delbrey worked herself into a jam in the bottom of the second inning.

After retiring the Gamecocks in order during the first frame, Delbrey and the Gators gave up four runs in the second by giving South Carolina too many free chances.

Delbrey forced a leadoff out as junior Riley Blampied popped up to second, but then Delbrey hit the second batter, gave up a base hit, a five-pitch walk and hit another batter, scratching across the first run for the Gamecocks.

Florida's misfortune continued as a muffed throw by first baseman Avery Goelz allowed another pair of runners to come home, stretching the Gamecocks' lead to 3-0 while the bases stayed loaded with one out.

South Carolina would bring across one more run courtesy of a sac bunt, putting the Gators in an early four-run hole.

Florida would cut its deficit in half in during the next inning as sophomore Reagan Walsh roped a two-RBI double down the left field line. But the Gators would give the pair of runs right back in the home half of the third as Delbrey worked herself into another bases-loaded jam with no outs.

Tim Walton would call on senior Rylee Trlicek to try and clean up the third inning, which ended with South Carolina holding a 6-2 lead.

In two innings of work, Delbrey gave up four walks, three hits and six runs.

Florida went on to rally and post seven runs in the sixth inning to take a 10-6 lead. But the Gators spotted South Carolina the same number of runs in the bottom half of the frame, giving the Gamecocks a 13-10 series-opening win.

The Gators out-hit the Gamecocks 9-8 Friday, but Florida gifted South Carolina 10 free bases.

Gators clean it up on both ends Saturday

All season, the Gators have righted the ship their second time seeing a team. And that continued to ring true for Florida Saturday as it rebounded with an 8-1 win over South Carolina to even the series.

The nod went to fifth-year pitcher Elizabeth Hightower, who went the distance and held the Gamecocks to four runs. Hightower was working a no-hitter until the fourth when she gave up a one-out double to Zoe Laneaux, who ended up being left stranded.

While the Gamecocks put up zeroes in the opening four frames, the Gators jumped out to a quick three-run lead in the first inning on back-to-back home runs from sophomore Reagan Walsh and graduate transfer Pal Egan.

The Gators would post another three-spot in the fourth and an additional run in each of the final two innings, while giving up their lone run in the fifth inning.

Florida has yet to lose the second game of any matchup this year.

USC's Donnie Gobourne pitches gem on Sunday

Florida briefly saw South Carolina junior Donnie Gobourne on Friday as she pitched one inning of relief. Gobourne inherited a pair of runners with no outs and went on to give up one run on an RBI single by Egan.

In Sunday's rubber match, however, it would take the Gators a lot longer to figure out Gobourne, who was working a no-hitter up until the final out of the game. Florida junior Katie Kistler broke up Gobourne's no-no bid with a double to left field in the top of the seventh inning.

In her complete-game effort, Gobourne struck out 15, six more than UCLA's Megan Faraimo did on Feb. 23.

Meanwhile, the Gamecocks had worked their way to a 3-0 lead, which started with a solo home run off the bat of Blampied in the second inning.

In her next at-bat, Blampied attacked another pitch from Hightower and doubled down the right field line, good for another pair of runs.

The Gamecocks out-hit the Gators 5-1 in Sunday's finale.