Jaimie Hoover was gifted another opportunity to make up for past mistakes.
The Gators left fielder approached the plate with the bases loaded in the bottom of the seventh in Florida softball’s game against South Carolina last Friday. The Gamecocks led the game, 2-1.
Hoover had the chance to play hero. Instead she fouled out, ending the game.
Hoover redeemed herself a week later versus Missouri. She ventured to the plate with the score tied 2-2 and runners on first and third. The fifth-year senior eyed a 1-1 pitch and belted it to deep left field. It barely climbed over the left-center field wall to give the Gators a 5-2 advantage.
Hoover’s long bomb proved the difference maker as the Gators knocked off Mizzou 5-2 Friday in Columbia, Missouri. The win moved No. 3 Florida to 15-4 in SEC play, three games ahead of No. 15 Missouri at 12-7.
UF entered the game five days removed from its 4-2 victory over South Carolina Sunday. Heading into Friday’s matchup, pitchers figured to dominate the day. Mizzou pitcher Jordan Weber arrived with a 3.53 ERA, while Florida right-hander Elizabeth Hightower carried a 1.43 ERA into the matchup.
Hightower was expected to dominate throughout this matchup, but it failed to begin that way. The junior relinquished a no-out, two-run home run in the bottom of the second to redshirt senior Cayla Kessigner. For five innings, the mistake appeared to doom the Gators, despite Hightower not allowing another run.
Weber sliced and diced her way through the UF lineup. Through five frames, Florida abandoned just three runners on base.
Everything changed in the sixth inning.
Second baseman Hannah Adams walked to start the frame. Two batters later, third baseman Charla Echols shifted Adams to second with a single. Weber moved closer to getting out of the jam when Kendyl Lindaman line out, but after another free pass, Mizzou coach Larissa Anderson pulled Weber for the dependable Emma Nichols.
The southpaw rode a 2.56 ERA before Friday but she quickly crashed and burned. Freshman Emily Wilkie picked up one of the most important hits of her young career with a single, scoring Adams and Echols.
Hoover’s big shot officially put the game out of reach.
Hightower delivered a no-hit sixth before lefty Katie Chronister picked up the save. She needed only 11 pitches to do so, and the Gators emerged victorious.
The win was reminiscent of Florida’s last victory over the Tigers, a 7-4 win in Columbia on May 6, 2018. In that showing, the Gators scored four runs in the top of the seventh.
The loss Friday also handed Mizzou its first opening-game loss in SEC play.
Action from the Show-me State continues Saturday. First pitch is slated for 5 p.m. and will be televised on the SEC Network.
Contact Noah Ram at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him at email@example.com
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.