UF’s chances at revenge ended before many revelers even found their seats Wednesday evening.
In the top of the first inning, UCF sophomore Shannon Doherty approached the plate with runners on first and second and no outs. Behind in the count 1-2, she launched Katie Chronister’s pitch toward the Gainesville sun and over the Gators bullpen in left field to put the Knights ahead 4-0.
No. 23 UCF controlled the game from there and scored three more runs to shock the No. 5 Gators 7-0 Wednesday night at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium. UF fell to 30-5 and lost just its second home game of the campaign and its first out of conference.
Florida entered searching to avenge its loss three weeks ago. On March 24, then-No. 22 Central Florida upset No. 5 Florida in Orlando. The eight runs the Gators allowed that night rank as a season-high, and they failed to improve Wednesday night.
Lefty Katie Chronister took the rubber for Florida and struggled from the get-go. UCF (30-9) placed a runner on second after only two pitches and scored that run two batters later on a mishandled infield single.
Doherty raked her first of three hits on the night with the long bomb. Coach Tim Walton pulled Chronister before she registered an out. Fellow lefty Rylee Trlieck righted the ship somewhat, but still conceded three runs in five innings.
“UCF played very well tonight,” coach Tim Walton said. “They played us well down there and we didn’t play them well at all either game.”
In the first meeting, the Gators unearthed success at the plate, scoring six runs. But that prosperity disappeared Wednesday night. The Gators faced UCF junior Breanna Vasquez in her fourth start of the season. The righty delivered a gem and hurled a complete game shutout, despite coming in with an ERA over four.
Florida didn’t go up against Vasquez in the earlier loss, but coach Tim Walton insisted postgame his team wasn’t affected by that.
A two-run home run by Knights first baseman Jazmine Esparza in the third inning sealed a UCF victory. Walton said the game’s lone silver lining occurred in the sixth inning, when he brought in freshman Haley Pittman for the first time in her collegiate appearance. The lefty pitched flawlessly and shut down Central Florida in order.
“I feel like it was the right spot for her,” Walton said. “She came in and gave us more paths and opportunities to potentially pick up the win.”
The loss signified UF’s first home shutout in over two years – a 2-0 loss to FSU April 3, 2019. Wednesday night’s game was UF’s final before its all-important series with No. 3 Alabama this weekend. Walton said he hoped the team didn’t look past the Knights for the Crimson Tide.
“If they are looking forward to anything, it’s Alabama kicking their butts if they played like they did tonight,” Walton said. “There was nothing we did well tonight except for Haley Pittman.”
The Gators three gamer with the Tide starts Friday at 7 p.m. from Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Florida and Alabama control the second and third spots in the SEC standings.
Contact Noah Ram at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @noah_ram1
Noah is a third year journalism-sports and media student from Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. He has been with The Alligator since Spring 2019 and has covered men’s and women’s tennis, gymnastics and volleyball. When he isn’t on his beat, Noah is usually sadden over his beloved South Florida sports teams, such as the Heat and Dolphins.