'A tad bit late': Florida softball just shy of knocking off No. 3 Florida State

Ainslie Lee
The Gainesville Sun

With the game-winning run on first base in the bottom of the seventh, Florida State gambled and intentionally walked Florida redshirt junior Skylar Wallace to load the bases with two outs.

As Wednesday night's crowd at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium booed the third-ranked Seminoles for their decision, first baseman Bethaney Keen joked with Florida's Kendra Falby that pitching against Charla Echols wasn't much of a consolation prize for the intentional walk.

Echols leads the Gators in RBIs and boasts a .377 batting average. She's so surefooted that head coach Tim Walton doesn't feel the need to overcoach her.

"I've got a lot of confidence in her," Walton said.

Echols liked the first pitch she saw, ripped at it and made contact. Unfortunately for Florida, Echols was a hair late, sending the ball straight up into the air, leaving her watching as it found the web of catcher Michaela Edenfield's glove.

Echols' foul out forced the 16th-ranked Gators to strand the bases loaded, allowing the Seminoles to secure an 8-7 win and sweep this year's Sunshine Showdown.

"You were prepared for the pitch, you got your swing off, you were just a tad bit late on it," Wallace told Echols. "If you catch that 2 inches more out front, it's probably a different outcome. But that's the art of hitting."

The last time out:Florida State softball wins 4th straight Sunshine State Showdown over Florida

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Here are the takeaways.

Florida throws the whole pen at Florida State

The primary role of Florida senior Rylee Trlicek has been to pitch in relief. While she's appeared in 31 games this season, she's only started nine.

Trlicek's role against the Seminoles was no different, though her name was called a little earlier than usual.

Walton nodded at Lexie Delbrey to start Wednesday's game. However, Delbrey's outing lasted 2.1 innings as the sophomore gave up five walks through 16 at-bats, allowing Florida State to take a quick 3-0 lead. When Delbrey (2.1 IP, 5 hits, 3 runs, 4 walks, strikeout) was yanked from the circle in the top of the third inning, the 'Noles had loaded the bases with one out.

"I didn't see anything different today than I saw at Ole Miss," Walton said of Florida's pitching. "The only difference is Lexie got hit harder than she did against Ole Miss. It's the same old stuff. Self-induced trauma, right?"

Trlicek was able to get out of the jam, forcing a flyout and a strikeout before going on to hurl a strong fourth inning as she put the Seminoles away in four at-bats. However, Florida State's bats eventually snuck up on Trlicek (2.1 IP, 6 hits, 4 runs, walk, two strikeouts) as the 'Noles strung together four hits and a walk, which translated to four runs and the lead for the Seminoles.

Walton made his second call to the bullpen with two outs in the fifth, bringing fifth-year senior Elizabeth Hightower to the rubber to try and polish off the 'Noles.

Like her teammates before her, Hightower also worked through 2.1 innings, giving up no hits and one run.

Jahni Kerr has herself a day for FSU

While any ranked rivalry matchup requires a team effort, when you have a player rise to the occasion like Florida State sophomore Jahni Kerr did for the Seminoles, it certainly doesn't hurt.

Kerr went 3-for-3, tying her season-high for most hits in a game and notching her seventh multi-hit performance in the last eight games.

Kerr also finished with a team-leading three RBIs as she plated a run off a single in the second inning and doubled in a pair of runs in the Seminoles' four-run fifth inning.

Kerr was just one of three FSU batters with multiple hits: leadoff hitter Kaley Mudge went 2-for-5 with a RBI and Devyn Flaherty went 2-for-3. Sophomore Katie Dack also had a productive night for the 'Noles, tallying a hit for two RBIs in the fifth.

Skylar Wallace still gunning for Player of the Year

There's something about Skylar Wallace and Florida's rivals.

When the Georgia Bulldogs came to Gainesville in mid-April, Wallace put together a career night that saw her lift three home runs − a performance that has been the hallmark of her Player of the Year campaign.

And on the same day she was named one of 10 finalists for USA Softball's Collegiate Player of the Year and with another rival in town, Wallace notched another multi-home run night as she lifted a pair of solo home runs against the Seminoles.

Wallace's first home run came in the fourth inning, giving the Gators a 4-3 lead. Her second came in the sixth inning, bringing Florida within one run.

Unfortunately for Wallace and the Gators, the Seminoles wouldn't allow for any walk-off heroics as Makenna Reid pitched around the nation's slugging percentage leader (1.016).

"As much as I wanted to hit, it's a respect thing," Wallace said. "They know what I can do and they don't want to put me in a position to win the game."

Florida senior catcher Sarah Longley joined Wallace as the only other Gator to tally a home run as she lifted a two-run shot to the roof of Florida's bullpen in the fifth inning. Falby also had a productive evening, going 2-for-4 from the plate.