Tennessee pitchers Ashley Rogers and Bailey McCachren dealt straight fire to an arid Florida offense Saturday afternoon.
The duo held the Gators hitless through four innings and allowed only three hits in a dominant pitching performance. Rogers struck out five-of-nine batters to set up a sealing win for McCachren.
A late-game bomb from UF catcher Emily Wilkie was the only bright spot for Florida, but it wasn’t enough.
The No. 6 Gators were trampled Saturday afternoon, 7-2 by the No. 14 Tennessee Volunteers. Florida’s conference record falls to 4-4 after dropping its first series of the year.
Florida head coach Tim Walton kept it “short and sweet” after the game.
“We just try to be able to get the competitive energy a little bit better,” Walton said, “Keep on grinding, keep competing.”
Tennessee got on board in the first inning with effective base-running from center fielder Kiki Milloy.
After being hit by a pitch, the junior stole second base and advanced to third after UF starter Lexie Delbrey threw a wild pitch. Milloy scored after outfielder Amanda Ayala hit a ground ball to second base with no outs.
In the third frame, the Volunteers extended their lead thanks to a pair of two-out hits.
Freshman infielder Lair Beautae doubled to right-center field to bring in outfielder Katie Taylor, who was on second base after a failed Florida double-play attempt. Sophomore Zaida Puni then hit a two-run shot beyond the left-field fence to make it 4-0.
The Gators finally got on base in the fourth frame when infielders Hannah Adams and Charla Echols earned walks. However, freshman Reagan Walsh and senior Cheyenne Lindsey failed to move the runners after hitting consecutive flyouts.
Tennessee buried all hopes with an easy three-run fifth inning.
Delbrey gave up a walk, a single and a hit-by-pitch to juice the bases with one out. Puni capitalized the opportunity with a two-run double before outfielder Rylie West hit a sacrifice fly to center field.
Florida was on the verge of a run-rule loss when Tennessee loaded the bases again in the sixth with two outs. Graduate pitcher Marissa Mesiemore gave up two walks and a wild pitch, but freshman Haley Pittman escaped the jam after inducing a groundout to third base.
The Gators struggled to create dangerous situations all game. Before Wilkie’s home run in the seventh inning, the offense only racked up two singles, which came in the fifth frame. Overall, the team went 3-20 from the plate with seven strikeouts.
Florida looks to avoid the series sweep Sunday in the final game of the series at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium. The first pitch is scheduled for 2 p.m. The game will be broadcast via ESPNU.
Contact Jose Tovar at firstname.lastname@example.org. Find him on Twitter @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.