Freshman pitcher Lexie Delbrey hadn’t allowed a single hit in the game until Arkansas first baseman Danielle Gibson hit a grounder that jumped off the bat. Florida second baseman Hannah Adams laid out to keep the ball on the dirt but couldn’t get the throw in.
The play spelled the beginning of the end for Florida’s run at the Southeastern Conference Tournament.
No. 1 Arkansas (42-9, 19-5) wreaked havoc for the No. 5 Gators (43-16, 13-11) in the bottom of the fourth inning, changing the trajectory of the game.
Florida jumped on the board early Friday, but with one run on five hits and four left on the bases, it wasn’t enough to pull out a victory.
Head coach Tim Walton entrusted the start of the semifinal game to the freshman duo – Delbrey and Roe.
The right-hander issued two consecutive walks to begin her first appearance in the SEC Tournament.
On one of the largest stages of collegiate softball, Delbrey managed to settle in and closed out the bottom of the first with two strikeouts. Gator Nation was right there to cheer on the Bainbridge, Georgia, native and erupted into applause encouraging the freshman.
“You can see jitters,” Walton said. “She’s [Delbrey] going awesome and then she loses control a little bit at times.”
Following Gibson’s hit, the next Razorback at-bat was met with a symphony of groans and protests from the home crowd. Sophomore third baseman Hannah Gammill drew a walk that Gator Nation did not agree with.
Delbrey loaded the bases with no outs and was relieved by junior pitcher Rylee Trlicek, who would lead to Florida’s demise.
Arkansas freshman Kacie Hoffmann was first to barrel up Trlicek and sent the ball right back at her. The left-handed pitcher handled the shot for the force out at home.
Immediately after, Trlicek was battered with three straight hits back to her in the circle.
With bases loaded, the Hallettsville, Texas, native fielded junior Audrie LaValley’s hit but didn’t know where to go with it. Trlicek finally decided on a throw to the plate but was too late and the toss soared to the left of freshman catcher Sam Roe, allowing Arkansas to score its first two runs.
With a flustered Trlicek in the circle for UF, the Razorbacks plated two more runs before the Gators found their third out to end the heinous inning.
By the time the orange and blue returned to their dugout, Arkansas scored four runs, three of which were unearned.
With its last six outs to work with, the Gators couldn’t string anything together and came up short.
Gator fans showed out and represented once again Friday night. Arkansas head coach Courtney Deifel said she was impressed by Florida’s handling of hosting the tournament.
“This has been a top-notch tournament,” Deifel said. “It’s exactly what you would expect coming into Florida, it’s just all class. The crowd was incredible, the environment, the atmosphere.”
Walton expressed his disappointment as the Gators poor performance became their own demise.
“At the end of the day, it’s 4-1,” Walton said. “I hate losing.”
Arkansas won its first championship game in 1999. The Razorbacks seek their second-ever title after twenty-three years.
While Arkansas faces No. 7 Missouri Saturday in the championship game, Florida looks ahead to regionals, with the NCAA Selection Show Sunday slated for 7 p.m. on ESPN2.