TUSCALOOSA, ALABAMA – Florida catcher Julia Cottrill, eager to swing after two intentional walks Saturday, tapped a two RBI single to right field. The third inning bullet granted the Gators a 2-1 lead.
The two runs were the first — and last — for No. 5 Florida as it missed a series sweep over No. 3 Alabama 4-2.
Unlike its two previous performances, Alabama’s offense started to swing early. The Crimson Tide established a one-run lead in the first inning.
Alabama right fielder KB Sides led the way with a single that bounced off Florida pitcher Elizabeth Hightower’s feet. Catcher Bailey Hemphill cracked one to Hightower that hit her glove as Sides advanced to third. Sides capitalized on a Kaylee Tow groundout to third and raced home.
When Cottrill helped Florida bite back in the third, it sparked a flame under the ‘Bama batters.
In the bottom of the frame, Sides crossed the plate for Alabama’s second run. She capitalized on a Hightower fielding error that sent the ball rolling into the outfield. In a similar scenario to the first inning, Kayla Davis scored after a Maddie Morgan ground out to third.
A cluster of enthusiastic children screeched a “Let’s go, Bailey” chant during Hemphill’s second at bat. They continued to stand and cheer for three full innings.
The Crimson Tide tacked on one more unearned run after a Hannah Adams fielding error at second base.
Hightower and Alabama’s Montana Fouts returned to the pitching circle for Sunday’s matchup. The duo started for their respective teams when the Gators won 2-0 Friday.
Hightower registered a season-high 11 strikeouts Friday but struggled to find her footing in her second appearance. Through four innings, she collected a single strikeout and allowed four hits and four runs before left-handed senior Katie Chronister entered in relief.
Chronister held the Tide scoreless for the final three innings.
Fouts, however, hurled 10 strikeouts and held the Gators to four hits and two runs in her full-game showing. She saw the minimum in three innings and sliced the Gator’s final offensive effort in just 11 pitches.
Despite the loss, Florida clinched the series in Tuscaloosa and improved to 12-3 in conference play.
The Gators travel to Florida Gulf Coast University to take on the Eagles Wednesday.
Contact Rachel Slay at email@example.com and follow her on Twitter @racheljslay