Florida softball: Megan Faraimo no-hits No. 3 Gators as No. 1 UCLA Bruins take 10-0 win
UCLA ended Florida's softball season in the Women's College World Series on June 5, 2022. Two hundred sixty-three days later, the Bruins proved they still have the Gators' number.
In Florida's first game of the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic from Palm Springs, Calif., the No. 3 Gators, who came into matchup with the nation's top-scoring offense, were silenced by the top-ranked Bruins and their ace, Megan Faraimo.
Coming into Thursday night's matchup, Florida had ended eight of its 10 wins in run-rule fashion. But the Gators found themselves on the receiving end of a run-rule loss as UCLA won, 10-0, behind Faraimo's no-hitter.
Florida had been averaging more than 10 hits per game before Thursday.
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Here are takeaways from the heavyweight matchup, which stretched into the early hours of Friday.
Florida without key piece in Skylar Wallace
It didn't take long to notice the Gators' lineup was looking a bit different.
Redshirt junior shortstop Skylar Wallace wasn't available as Florida head coach Tim Walton told the Gators Sports Network Wallace was dealing with illness. In her absence, true freshman Kaila Pollard got the start at shortstop.
But Wallace's absence in the infield was just half the battle.
Not having Wallace, who boasts a .545 average with a team-leading three home runs, also impacted Florida's lineup. In most games this season, Wallace hit from the two hole and was a speed demon on the base path, having stolen nine bases.
Without Wallace, it was sophomore second baseman Sam Roe who slid into the No. 2 slot.
However, not having Wallace in the lineup was a moot point considering the force UCLA threw into the circle.
Megan Faraimo deals, hushes Florida's offense
Florida didn't start its ace veteran in Elizabeth Hightower, but the Bruins did.
From the first batter Faraimo faced to the last, UCLA's fifth-year senior dominated the game, tossing her seventh no-hitter and her first against a ranked opponent.
Florida sophomore Reagan Walsh drew a lead-off walk in the top of the second inning to break up Faraimo's bid at a perfect game.
Meanwhile, Faraimo, who was the Pac-12's pitcher of the year last season, tallied nine strikeouts.
Bruins bruise Florida's defense
Starting in the circle for the Gators was left-handed senior Rylee Trlicek, who has historically forced a lot of infield grounders and pop flies.
As a result, Walton shifted his defense, bringing in a fifth infielder.
The defensive shift was a risky one. But as Walton's colleague Billy Napier might say, "Scared money don't make money."
Unfortunately for the Gators, the risk didn't pay off. The Bruins exploited the two outfielders, who were required to cover large pieces of real estate.
In UCLA's first at-bat, Savannah Pola sent a Trlicek pitch to right field, good for a stand-up triple. The Bruins would follow with a pair of doubles to the outfield shortly after, giving UCLA a 2-0 lead in the first inning.
Walton and the Gators would keep with their atypical formation in the second inning, only to be stung again by a leadoff single that rolled up the gut and a two-RBI triple off the bat of Maya Brady, extending the Bruins' lead to 4-0.
Florida keep UCLA off the scoreboard in the third inning as Tennessee graduate transfer Samantha Bender took over pitching duties and the Gators returned to their usual defensive set. But the Bruins blew the game wide open in the fourth with six runs.
Bender (1.1 IP, 5 hits, 4 runs, strikeout) and freshman Olivia Gigante (1.0 IP, 2 hits, 2 runs, strikeout) would see action in the fourth, but UCLA continued to pass the bat, bringing 11 batters to the plate.
Gigante would finally get Pola to ground out to mercifully end the inning, only for Faraimo to force a three up, three down inning in the top of the fifth to secure the five-inning win.