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Monday, June 17, 2024

Florida drops game two of SEC opening series against Mississippi State, 1-0

The Gators were shut out for the first time this season

<p>The Florida softball team during a game against Louisville Feb. 27, 2021. The Gators were edged by Mississippi State Sunday, 1-0 to drop game two of a three-game series.</p>

The Florida softball team during a game against Louisville Feb. 27, 2021. The Gators were edged by Mississippi State Sunday, 1-0 to drop game two of a three-game series.

It all came down to the final at-bat. 

The Florida faithful cheered in unison as sophomore Katie Kistler approached the batters’ box in the bottom of the seventh inning with two outs on the board. 

Catcher Sam Roe was pinch-running for sophomore Emily Wilkie at first base and represented the Gators tying run. 

The Gators faced a similar position in the SEC opener Saturday, besting Mississippi State. Florida hoped for the same outcome Sunday. 

However, MSU pitcher Annie Willis frustrated the rally by inducing Kistler into a second-base groundout, securing the Bulldogs’ 1-0 win over Florida in the second game of the opening series. 

“We competed and stayed in the game,” head coach Tim Walton said. “Bad luck and a combination of not being able to get it done when we needed it.” 

The Bulldogs took the lead in the top of the second inning with effective base running and situational hitting. Junior Paige Cook singled to right field and stole second base. She advanced to third on a flyout before scoring on a left-field single by senior Jackie McKenna. 

Florida threatened to score in the bottom of the frame when runners were in the corners with one out. 

 Senior Charla Echols led off with a double to the right-field line and reached third base after freshman Reagan Walsh hit a fly ball to deep right field. Senior Cheyenne Lindsey got to first base on a squeeze bunt, but Echols couldn’t advance. 

Willis crushed the Gator hopes by striking out sophomore Avery Goelz and retiring Roe with a first-base pop-up. 

Those were some of the many plays that wouldn’t go Florida’s way. 

In the fourth inning, pinch-runner Mia Buffano was on first base with one out when Lindsey drilled a ball to deep left field that turned into a triple. Surprisingly, Buffano tripped and fell on her way to the plate and was tagged out in a rundown. Goelz struck out swinging to end the threat. 

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Florida had a chance to score in fifth, but another base-running miscue prevented the run. 

Kistler stole third base with two outs and had a free pass to the plate after Mississippi State catcher Mia Davidson’s throw went high. Walton whipped his arms frantically, but Kistler missed the sign and stayed in the bag. Fifth-year senior Hannah Adams then grounded out to second base to extend the drought.

The Gators didn't get any hits in the sixth and struggled to find momentum in the decisive final frame. Lindsey was called out for stepping outside of the batter’s box before pinch-hitter Kinsey Goelz struck out swinging. Wilkie, also pinch-hitting, battled to get an infield single to set up Roe at first. 

The rest was history. 

Despite suffering her first loss of the season, fifth-year senior Natalie Lugo kept the Gators in the game by retiring 11 batters via flyout. She returned to the circle for the first time since Feb. 27, when she pitched six innings against James Madison.

Graduate transfer Marissa Mesiemore pitched two relief innings and didn’t allow a hit. 

Florida hopes to bounce back Monday when it concludes its series with the Bulldogs at 7 p.m. at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium. 

Contact Jose Tovar at Find him on Twitter @jose___tovar

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Jose Tovar

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.

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