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Monday, February 26, 2024
<p>The Gators managed only one hit in Friday's loss to Mississippi State.</p>

The Gators managed only one hit in Friday's loss to Mississippi State.

Bottom of the seventh, two outs, bases loaded.

Pinch hitter Cheyenne Lindsey looked at Mississippi State pitcher Emily Williams’ 2-2 pitch, hoping that it missed the strike zone.

Unfortunately for Lindsey, it caught the middle portion of the zone and home plate umpire Tomy Meyer called her out.

Game over.

The Gators’ three-run two-out rally came up just short, and they fell to the Bulldogs 6-4 in a bizarre game at home on Friday night.

All of Florida’s runs came courtesy of a walk. Shortstop Sophia Reynoso’s single in the bottom of the fourth was the only hit the Gators had all night, but Williams’ lack of control kept them in the game. She dished out 12 walks over seven innings, including six in the final frame.

The Gators (39-14, 11-11 SEC) went 0 for 6 with runners in scoring position and stranded nine runners in the game.

Starting pitcher Kelly Barnhill ran into trouble immediately against MSU (31-19, 8-14 SEC). She hit catcher Mia Davidson with a pitch in the top of the first inning before giving up a two-run home run to designated player Fa Leilua.

The second inning played out much like the first for Barnhill. After a leadoff single, the senior surrendered another two-run home run, this one to first baseman Sarai Niu, her first of the season. The Bulldogs also picked up another run on an RBI groundout later in the inning.

Coach Tim Walton pulled Barnhill in favor of sophomore Natalie Lugo after the second inning. Friday night’s game tied with the Feb. 27 game against UCLA as Barnhill’s shortest start of the season. In total, she gave up five earned runs on four hits and had one strikeout.

Fielding miscues cost the Gators another run in the third inning. Lugo walked Leilua and gave up a single to lead off the inning. A ground out moved both runners into scoring position with one out.

Lugo got third baseman Montana Davidson to chase a pitch in the dirt for a strikeout, but catcher Jordan Roberts couldn’t handle it and failed to throw the ball to first, allowing Davidson to safely reach first base.

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The sophomore had another strikeout a batter later, but the ball slipped through Roberts for another run to give MSU a 5-1 lead in the top of the third.

Florida’s only run ahead of the bottom of the seventh inning came when Williams walked Jaimie Hoover with the bases loaded in the bottom of the first.

The bottom of the seventh inning started innocently enough, with center fielder Alex Voss earning a walk before Williams retired the next two batters. The Bulldogs were just one out away from taking the first game of the series and earning their first win against the Gators since 2015.

But then the control issues came back.

Williams walked the next four batters, throwing just two strikes in that span and allowing the Gators to narrow the lead to 6-3. She threw another ball to Hoover, but then the game was suspended due to lightning.

Nearly an hour and a half later, the teams took the field again.

Williams picked up where she left off and walked Hoover to make the score 6-4. She looked like she was going to walk Lindsey as well when she threw two more balls, but Williams composed herself to throw three straight strikes to the freshman to end the game.

The two remaining games in the series will be played on Saturday starting at 4 p.m. due to a high chance of rain on Sunday.

Follow Brendan Farrell on Twitter @Bfarrell727. Contact him at bfarrell@alligator.org.

The Gators managed only one hit in Friday's loss to Mississippi State.

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