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Tuesday, July 05, 2022

Gators get first SEC sweep of the season, edge Ole Miss twice

In two high-scoring matchups, Florida used big swings to win a pair of slugfests

<p>Pitcher Natalie Lugo throws before a game against Alabama April 18, 2021. The fifth-year senior dealt through two strikeouts during Florida&#x27;s doubleheader with Ole Miss. </p>

Pitcher Natalie Lugo throws before a game against Alabama April 18, 2021. The fifth-year senior dealt through two strikeouts during Florida's doubleheader with Ole Miss.

Two games, a lightning delay and a plethora of runs. 

That’s what was in store for the conclusion of Florida’s series at Mississippi, a double feature of epic proportions. 

No. 9 UF (34-9, 11-7) bested Ole Miss (29-14, 5-10) twice, 7-3 and 10-9 respectively, in a captivating doubleheader for fans of offense. 29 total runs were scored between the two teams on the day, and game two featured six home runs. 

Junior shortstop Skylar Wallace matched Gator records in the doubleheader, earning a stolen base in each game to equal the Florida all-time single-season record. Former UF infielder and Olympian Kelsey Stewart (2013-16) nabbed 36 stolen bases in 2013 and in 2014, a mark Wallace has reached with 13 regular-season games left on the schedule. 

In game one, it looked like Florida was going to run away with it early. Wallace doubled to left, and senior second baseman Hannah Adams followed her with another to center to trade places. 

Later, Adams crossed home on an RBI groundout by freshman designated player Reagan Walsh to make it 2-0 by the end of the first inning.

The Gators continued their hot start in the second. Freshman center fielder Kendra Falby singled, and Wallace was hit by a pitch, setting up senior third baseman Charla Echols’ two-RBI single through the right side to start blowing open the scoring, 4-0. 

Both offenses stagnated for much of the middle innings; no more than four UF batters came to the plate in frames three, four and five. Ole Miss senior lefty Anna Borgen (3.0 IP, 6 H, 4 ER) lasted one more inning after UF’s high-scoring second, the Rebels opting for sophomore righty Aynslie Furbush. 

Mississippi began a comeback bid in the bottom of the fifth, plating its first run on an RBI-fielder’s choice from senior center fielder Abbey Latham. Florida’s Adams injured her hand on that play at second, forcing her to exit the game. Wallace moved to second and junior Sarah Longley was brought in to short. 

Ole Miss senior first baseman Sydney Gutierrez scratched two more with a two-out double to make it 4-3. The Gators used three different hurlers trying to get out of fifth-inning jams, beginning with Haley Pittman, then going to junior lefty Rylee Trlicek for four batters and finishing the inning and the game with fifth-year right-hander Natalie Lugo. 

With the Rebels threatening, Longley provided the spark off the bench that propelled Florida. In the top of the sixth, she blasted an RBI-double to left-center and scored Wallace to give UF a little more comfort at 5-3. 

That was the momentum needed to carry on. Lugo shutout Ole Miss in the sixth and seventh innings, and sophomore left fielder Katie Kistler’s two-RBI single in the final frame was just extra insurance on the first win of the day. 

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Game two got going with the Rebels scoring first in the bottom of the second inning. A throwing error by Wallace, now at first base, allowed Gutierrez to score on what was supposed to be just a sacrifice bunt by Ole Miss senior shortstop Mikayla Allee. 

The Gators quickly erased that error in the third. Walsh hit an RBI-fielder’s choice, and Lindsey, Kistler (a two-run single) and Longley all batted in runs in a huge frame for the Gators that brought the score to 5-1. 

Ole Miss quickly evened the score when it was its turn to bat, coming all the way back with a pair of two-run bombs by Latham and Allee respectively. Senior righty Elizabeth Hightower replaced graduate righty Marissa Mesiemore as a result. 

Sitting at 5-5, UF hunkered down to get back on top in the fourth. An Echols sacrifice fly to second let Wallace come home from third on the tag-up. Lindsey added to the total with an RBI-triple to center to make it 7-5. 

Yet again, bombs from the Rebels kept them in the game, this time from Gutierrez and junior third baseman Paige Smith in the bottom of the fifth. 

After a scoreless sixth, Florida would land the biggest blow of the all-but home run derby in the final frame. Sophomore catcher Emily Wilkie demolished a three-run blast to make the score 10-7. 

Ole Miss sophomore designated player Catelyn Riley punched one more ball over the fence in the bottom of the inning for a two-run shot, but Lugo forced three outs to pick up the save and end the marathon slugfest.

The Gators return to the Sunshine State Wednesday for another non-conference matchup with South Florida. First pitch is set for 6 p.m. and the game will stream on SEC Network+. 

Contact Caleb Wiegandt at cwiegandt@alligator.org. Follow him on Twitter at @CalebWiegandt.

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