Rain drops thinner than pin needles tickled the air as No. 7 Florida dug into the clay at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium. The skies dried up just in time for the Gators’ first pitch at home in 11 months.
The Gators were determined to keep their fans in their seats, teetering on the edge of them. Neither a Gator nor a Dolphin crossed home plate until the second at-bat of the seventh inning.
After a six-inning scoring drought, Hannah Adams had a monstrous hit to left center to advance Cheyenne Lindsey and win the game 1-0.
The Gator defense was locked in from start to finish. Pitcher Elizabeth Hightower allowed 2 hits through 4 innings. Junior center fielder Cheyenne Lindsey had a standout performance, batting .500 and making three key defensive plays, including a slick diving catch early in the first inning.
Left-handed pitcher Katie Chronister came in to relieve Hightower in the fifth inning. Head coach Tim Walton wanted to see fewer foul balls in the air and felt he had an opportunity to get some strikeouts.
Jacksonville played with undeniable fire that spread outward from the pitching circle.
Florida zoomed through the top of the first, only to leave three on base as Jacksonville pitcher Alyssa Bilodeau chalked up three consecutive strikeouts. Bilodeau continued to improve in the second inning and retired the Gators in order. She pitched six innings for the Dolphins, fanning six while surrendering just one earned run.
After every single strikeout, the Jacksonville dugout erupted with boisterous excitement.
With two outs and bases loaded in the fourth, second baseman Hannah Adams stepped up to the plate. She rattled off a handful of foul balls before soaring a fly ball. Dolphin center fielder Seana Mora made a routine catch to send Florida into the dugout with three runners stranded, again.
In the innings that followed, each team went in and out of the dugout leaving goose eggs on the board. The Gators managed to pepper in 7 hits before their final at-bat.
Florida, ready to bring home a win, took JU three up, three down for the third time in the top of the seventh.
Lindsey came out with a bold bunt and used her lead-off speed to make it to first. Next up was Hannah Adams (.533). Adams walked up to the box for her fourth at-bat of the night.
She loaded up as Bilodeau released her pitch. Adams sent the ball rocketing over the center fielder. Lindsey rounded third as the ball bounced off the back wall. JU, desperate to make the play, overthrew home as Lindsey crossed home plate to end the game.
“When you’ve got Cheyenne Lindsey in the nine-hole, it’s like another lead off,” Walton said.
After an impressive 2-0 start against USF, it was a surprise to not see the Gators waltz to a win.
“It’s all about how you finish,” Adams said in regard to the offense’s scoreless stretch.
Florida improved to 3-0 on the season and collected their second shutout in just three games. The Gators will host Georgia Southern in the first game of the Bubly Invitational Friday at 6 p.m.
Contact Rachel Slay at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter @racheljslay