Outfielder Cheyenne Lindsey walked up to the batter’s box turned pressure cooker with the most significant at-bat of Florida softball’s young season.
It was the bottom of the sixth inning and the Gators had bases loaded with two outs against No. 16 Michigan.
The game had turned into a pitching duel, with both squads unable to break the 0-0 deadlock., .
But Lindsey stepped up. The senior, who had struck out the previous inning, crushed Michigan’s Meghan Beaubien’s 2-1 pitch deep into the outfield to give Florida a 4-0 win — its second of the day — on Day 2 of the USF-Rawlings Invitational in Tampa.
The grand slam, however, was nearly outshined by Lexie Delbrey’s phenomenal pitching performance.
The freshman was two outs away from throwing a no-hitter in her first start as a Gator. The Bainbridge, Georgia, native held Michigan’s offense through 6.1 innings until catcher Hannah Carson singled to right field with one out in the seventh.
“I felt really good, Delbrey said. “I was a little too excited at first, but then I kind of calmed down and all my pitches started settling down and looking better so I felt pretty good.”
Before beating Michigan, the Gators took the first game of the doubleheader against Kansas City 7-1. Pitcher Elizabeth Hightower opened for the Gators after having a solid relief appearance in Friday’s 3-0 win over Illinois State, but she had a shaky start Saturday.
In the first inning, the senior ace allowed a leadoff single and a walk that later turned into a run.
The Roos had bases loaded with two outs, but Hightower limited the damage by striking out the third batter. She earned her second win of the season after giving up a run, two hits and three walks in 5.2 innings.
Florida took the lead in the second and never gave it up. A two-run home run by freshman Kendra Falby brought in outfielder Avery Goeltz, who was on first base after drawing a two-out walk.
In the fourth inning, freshman catcher Sam Roe extended the Gators’ lead with a solo bomb to left field. Falby and Roe’s homers were the firsts of their UF careers.
The Gators sealed the win by adding four runs in the sixth.
Freshman Reagan Walsh started the rally with a leadoff single followed by a single bunt by pinch hitter Katie Kistler. Lindsey cleaned up the bases with an RBI triple before scoring on a sacrifice bunt by Roe. Falby also scored on a triple by fifth-year player Hannah Adams.
Graduate pitcher Marissa Mesiemore closed out the game by retiring the side with three consecutive ground-outs.
Thirty-five minutes later, the Gators were back in action against No. 16 Michigan.
Before the grand slam, a strong performance by Michigan’s Alex Storako held Florida to only two hits in five innings. Storako struck out nine of the 23 batters she faced and had control of the game until the sixth.
In that inning, Adams led off with a single, and Charla Echols followed with a walk. Utility player Sarah Longley came in to pinch hit for Emily Wilkie and was hit by a pitch to load the bases.
That’s when Lindsey hit the game-winning home run.
“I was really just trying not to make the moment bigger than what it was, stay poised and just keep my swing the same because I've been making really good contact,” Lindsay said. “Just staying the same and not letting the situation get me worked up.”
The Gators will play South Florida Sunday at 1 p.m. on the last day of the USF-Rawlings Invitational.
Jose Tovar is a fourth-year journalism student at the University of Florida specializing in sports and media. He has covered softball and soccer as a beat writer and aspires to work in the sports media industry.