Florida catcher Janell Wheaton stepped up to the plate with the bases loaded and two strikes on her.

The Gators were trailing Alabama 3-0 in the bottom of the fifth inning, and a solid hit could kickstart UF’s offense. Set within the batter’s box, Wheaton fouled off three straight pitches before Crimson Tide pitcher Alexis Osorio threw her third ball of the at-bat.

With the count now full, Wheaten continued to foul off pitch after pitch until she finally hit one into play.

Except, it was a pop-up to left field.

Alabama escaped the inning unscathed and took UF’s opportunity to get back into the game with it.

“I told her, ‘Tough at-bat,’” coach Tim Walton said. “She showed toughness...that was a long at-bat in that situation being down by three with the tying run at first base. So I thought she did a good job.”

Florida (53-8) fell 3-0 to Alabama (46-16) in the first matchup of the NCAA Super Regional on Thursday night.

Pitcher Kelly Barnhill started the game strong, retiring the first 12 batters she faced.

But in the fifth inning, she made two errors that handed Alabama the game.

On back-to-back bunts to the pitcher, Barnhill threw the ball away twice, and the Tide took a 3-0 lead.

“I just went over and gave her a hug,” Walton said. “Told her, ‘Hey, keep your head up. We’re gonna need you to win this Super Regional. We’re gonna still need you.’ That’s all you could do.”

When it came time for Aleshia Ocasio to relieve the sophomore pitcher, Barnhill had recorded 11 strikeouts and let up just one hit.

Ocasio closed out the game with two scoreless inning and surrendering two hits.

For the Tide, Osorio held the Gators scoreless with three hits, despite walking three batters and hitting four.

And outside of the fifth inning, neither team could generate much offense. UF left fielder Amanda Lorenz led the team with two hits and two walks, while Ocasio recorded Florida’s only other hit.

The Gators will look to get their offense going in the second game of the Super Regional on Friday night in a win-or-go-home situation. The game will be played at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium starting at 7 p.m.

“I think we play better with our backs against the wall anyway,” Lorenz said. “I’m really excited to see what we have in us. It’s over. We can’t do anything about it now. We’re just going to fight.”

Contact Jake Dreilinger at jdreilinger@alligator.org and follow him on Twitter @DreilingerJake.

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