TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Sarah Longley sauntered toward the box amid jeers from the Crimson Tide fans. She stroked a lofty single to left field and granted the Gators a 2-0 lead in the second inning.
That score held through five innings as No. 5 Florida secured a 2-0 win over No. 3 Alabama in game one of the SEC series Friday.
Under overcast Tuscaloosa skies, a battle in the pitcher’s circle commenced.
The crowd’s intensity infected the atmosphere at Rhoads Stadium. Whether ball or strike, Alabama fans erupted after every Montana Fouts pitch.
Fouts entered the game with a .197 opponent batting average. Despite the loss, she pitched a relatively clean game. Fouts registered four strikeouts, three walks and held the Gators to six hits. With the exception of Longley’s two-run lob in the second inning, Fouts restrained the Gator offense throughout.
Gator standout Elizabeth Hightower clocked her fifteenth win and hurled a season-high 11 strikeouts. She held the Crimson Tide to three hits, and rendered batters four through nine completely unsuccessful.
The victory marked her fourth shut-out win over an SEC opponent this season.
In the third inning, the Crimson Tide resided on first and second. Third baseman Charla Echols snagged a Kaylee Tow hit, tapped the bag for the force and whipped the ball to second just in time.
Hightower snagged a Tow liner in the sixth, and smoked it to first for the night’s second double play.
Most of the game, especially the fifth inning, was riddled with controversy surrounding Bobby DeMayo, the home plate umpire. A handful of delayed calls at the plate, a crucial Alabama double ruled foul and a few conversations with Alabama head coach Patrick Murphy made him a fast enemy of Alabama fans.
Fans rose to their feet in discontent more than they did out of excitement.
The raucous energy didn’t affect the Gators however, who managed to power through and pull out the win.
Florida returns to action in Tuscaloosa on Saturday at 2 p.m. The game will broadcast on ESPN2.
Contact Rachel Slay at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter @racheljslay