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Thursday, April 25, 2024

Gators softball falls to in-state rival FSU

Elizabeth Hightower and Kendra Falby showed out defensively Wednesday, but it’s wasn’t enough to hold off Florida State

<p>Florida freshman Kendra Falby crosses the plate during a matchup with Mississippi State, March 14. Florida fell to FSU by a score of 2-1 Tuesday.</p>

Florida freshman Kendra Falby crosses the plate during a matchup with Mississippi State, March 14. Florida fell to FSU by a score of 2-1 Tuesday.

Senior pitcher Elizabeth Hightower battled all night at JoAnne Graf Field in Tallahassee, Florida. 

The No. 11 Gators and No. 3 Florida State were tied 1-1 heading into the bottom of the seventh with the Seminoles up to bat. Hightower fell behind early in the count with two balls given to freshman outfielder Jahni Kerr. 

Kerr jumped on a ball that was elevated in the zone and blasted it out over right center field. She scored the winning walk-off run against the Gators (38-14, 13-11 SEC)  to earn FSU (46-5, 16-5 ACC) its eighth consecutive win with a final score of 2-1. 

In a rematch of their first meeting this season on April 6, Florida looked to beat the Seminoles and redeem themselves from a 2-4 loss at home in Gainesville. 

The Gators quickly jumped ahead of the in-state rival in the top of the second. Freshman catcher Sam Roe reached first safely after an off-target throw from Seminole shortstop Josie Muffley. Sophomore outfielder Katie Kistler got on with a base hit and advanced Roe to second, bringing up freshman catcher Cali Decker. 

After working the count full, Decker was hit-by-pitch by senior Kat Sandercock to load the bases. Sophomore first baseman Avery Goelz hit a single to the second baseman but was thrown out at first. Goelz did her job putting the ball in play long enough to bring in Roe from third base to get the first score on the board. 

FSU answered in the bottom of the third with two outs. 

Junior outfielder Kaley Mudge earned a base hit to get a runner on for the ‘Noles. Graduate student Sydney Sherrill followed up with a deep fly ball to left center field that freshman outfielder Kendra Falby nor Kistler were able to come down with. 

Mudge scored from first with the deep shot and tied the game 1-1. 

Hightower responded with her third strikeout of the game and retired Harding to close out the inning. 

Florida stayed aggressive at the plate, only striking out four times Wednesday. The Gators still struggled with situational hitting and left Falby stranded at third base in the top of the fifth. 

FSU threatened again in the bottom of the fifth. 

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Mudge flew out to Falby in left field. Falby caught Muffley trying to steal second and made a textbook throw to first hosing Muffley before she could make it back to first safely, ending the inning and the threat. 

The orange and blue went three up, three down in the sixth and seventh innings, unable to produce any hits. 

The Gators relied on veteran pitching from Hightower and their elite defense to hopefully send the game into extra innings. 

Despite UF’s efforts, Florida State’s Kerr called the game with a leadoff walk-off homer, putting an end to any hope Florida had of coming out with a win. 

UF now sits at 38-14 on the season and ended SEC play last week at 13-11. 

The Gators will look ahead to a double-header on Friday against Mercer and FGCU back in Gainesville to close out the regular season. UF faces Mercer at 5 p.m. in Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium and the game will be streamed on SEC Network. 

Contact Madeline Lawson at Follow her on Twitter @MadsLaws.

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