Two fervent crowds in Gainesville made Sunday’s game seem more like a pep rally than a softball game.
Chants from both the home and away sections of Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium muddled together to form a senseless soundtrack to the series-deciding matchup.
On top of that, so much chatter came from the visiting dugout that if you closed your eyes, you could imagine that you were at a Little League tournament rather than a top-10 Division I softball game.
All of the noise must have made it hard for the Gators to concentrate, as No. 6 Florida lost its first series of the season, falling to No. 10 Louisiana in game three Sunday 7-6.
“In a head-to-head matchup, we’re a pretty dang good team,” coach Tim Walton said. “In a series, I don’t know if we’re as good a team because other teams are going to have a lot more looks at what we do.”
Senior Natalie Lugo started in the circle Sunday for the Gators (17-4). She dealt strikeouts indiscriminately in the first half of the game, including several that made Louisiana (14-5) hitters spin so fast that they didn’t have time to decide whether or not they’d touch down in Kansas and pick up Dorothy and Toto on their way to Oz. The junior had 11 on the day.
But at the end of 6.2 innings, Lugo allowed 11 hits and seven runs. A tough last 1.2 innings in which six Ragin’ Cajuns crossed home plate dragged her stat line through the dirt. A two-run homer by junior Raina O’Neal and an RBI double by freshman Taylor Roman in the sixth and another two-run homer from junior Carrie Boswell followed by an RBI single to right field by O’Neal in the seventh sent Lugo back to the bench.
“I think Natalie (Lugo) did a good job,” Walton said. “She had better stuff today. The fourth time through the lineup (was) a little bit tougher for her.”
Senior Katie Chronister took over in the top of the seventh with two outs already on the board. After senior Jordan Roberts caught a runner stealing second, Florida’s defense jogged back to the dugout.
Louisiana’s pitching staff struggled throughout the contest. Perhaps they’d been blinded by Florida’s silver chrome helmets. Whatever it was, it wasn’t good.
After playing a majority of game two in which the Ragin’ Cajuns beat the Gators 7-5, Ellyson only pitched four innings on Sunday. After allowing four hits and one run while facing seven batters in the bottom of the first, Louisiana’s coaching staff figured they would have better luck with Kleist in the circle.
Seeing as senior Kendyl Lindaman crushed a three-run homer off the sixth pitch Kleist sent her way, they figured wrong.
Ellyson then stepped back into the circle at the bottom of the fifth, this time allowing one hit and two runs in the remaining innings.
Down 7-4 with one out in the bottom of the seventh, Charla Echols stepped up to the plate and smacked a two-run homer to trim Louisian’s lead down to one run. But freshman Baylee Goddard and Roberts were unable to follow Echol’s dinger, as back-to-back outs sent Florida back to the locker room with one more loss on its resume.
“We’ve got to get a little tougher,” Walton said following the loss. “And tougher can come in a lot of different ways, but we’ve got to be tougher because we’re going to have a lot of games like today.”
The Gators will be back in KSP Wednesday at 6 p.m. to take on FGCU.
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