A shocked silence filled the Friday evening air of Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium.
With the score knotted at one in the sixth inning, Gamecock second baseman Mackenzie Boesel ripped a single up to Florida junior Cheyenne Lindsey. The center fielder fired a throw to catcher Julia Cottrill with more than enough time to get out the USC base runner – shortstop Kenzi Maguire.
The umpire signaled safe, and the next sound came from the crowd – a unison of boos. Most in attendance thought the umpires missed the call.
But the usually reliable Cottrill bobbled it and missed the tag to give South Carolina a 2-1 lead.
The ‘Cocks stunned the No. 3 Gators 2-1 Friday evening to hand Florida its second straight conference loss.
Before Friday, Florida (33-7, 12-4 SEC) rode a 13-game winning streak against the Gamecocks heading into Friday. USC (24-18) entered with a 2-13 SEC record without a win over a team currently ranked in the top 25.
A battle of aces marked the game as Florida right-hander Elizabeth Hightower battled South Carolina righty Leah Powell. Powell shone through for the Gamecocks this season. She accumulated a 7-2 record and a 2.26 ERA heading into Friday, and she appeared a worthy opponent for the dominant Hightower.
She hurled a complete game and relinquished just four Florida hits.
“Early in the game, she couldn’t throw her change for a strike, but later in the game, she was able to locate better,” coach Tim Walton said. “We didn’t take good advantage of it and had some poor at bats.”
Both pitchers ran into early trouble in the first.
Two consecutive Gamecock singles placed runners on first and second with no outs. Senior Cayla Drotar capitalized two batters later and slapped a shallow ball to center.
Lindsey botched the catch and the cut-off toss to Cottrill arrived a second too late, and South Carolina grabbed the lead.
UF responded with a two-out rally. Third baseman Charla Echols got whacked by a pitch, and senior Kendyl Lindaman brought her home with a deep double to right field.
Following the first, both offenses embarked on a deep freeze. They left a combined two runners on base in four innings.
However, just like the first inning, Maguire revived SC’s offense. She doubled on an 0-2 pitch, which caused Walton to bring in lefty Katie Chronister.
The senior failed to stop the damage as Boesel scored Maguire.
Cottrill recovered from her blunder with a lead-off single in the bottom of the seventh. Pinch runner Katie Kistler made it all the way to third base after a sacrifice and a groundout.
A Jordan Matthews walk set the stage for senior Jaimie Hoover.
The left fielder moved ahead in the count 2-0, but after a strike and foul ball pushed it back to 2-2. She popped out in foul territory and dashed UF’s comeback bid.
Walton said he plans to keep the same lineup mostly intact but announced he will start Matthews.
Saturday’s game marks senior night. Walton reflected on what the seniors have gone through during their time at Florida.
“Every college senior goes through a lot as they transition away from home and to a new place,” Walton said. “I think this senior class has dealt with that exceptionally well. Some have played for a national championship and have meant a ton to our program.”
Florida looks to recuperate and even the series at 6 p.m. Saturday evening. The game will be televised on ESPNU.
Contact Noah Ram at email@example.com 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.