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Thursday, April 25, 2024

Florida softball exits OKC after shutout loss to UCLA

The No.14-seed Gators mustered just two hits

<p>Members of the Florida softball team celebrate after a victory over USF May 21, 2021. Florida fell to UCLA Sunday, ending its season.</p>

Members of the Florida softball team celebrate after a victory over USF May 21, 2021. Florida fell to UCLA Sunday, ending its season.

The No.14-seed Florida Gators softball team will take the next flight out of Oklahoma City as its season came to an end after back-to-back scoreless outings. 

For the second time in under 24 hours, UF’s offense went cold in a win-or-go-home matchup against the UCLA Bruins Sunday, losing 8-0.

Saturday, No. 7-seed Oklahoma State overwhelmed Florida behind All-American pitcher Kelly Maxwell’s superb three-hit shutout. Bruins ace Holly Azevedo took it up a notch Sunday, allowing just two hits while dealing two K’s. The redshirt senior helped the 12-time national champions advance to the semifinal round of the NCAA Women's College World Series after retiring the first six Gators sluggers.

The Bruins scratched the scoreboard first in the second inning via a single from redshirt junior Kelli Godin. 

The frame kicked off with a groundout to second base from freshman Savannah Pola. The Santa Ana, California, native got the better of UF senior Elizabeth Hightower, who started in the circle for the Gators. After Pola battled through the count to force a walk, Hightower managed to bounce back with a changeup pitch to earn her first, and only, strikeout of the day.

Bruins redshirt junior Anna Vines singled to right field, advancing Pola into scoring position. Outfielder Kelli Godin approached the plate next, facing a full count; the junior skipped one to right-center field, bringing Pola home. 

Although the Gators were not able to answer the 1-0 deficit, Hightower escaped further damage as sophomore Katie Kistler highlighted the third frame with a home run-saving snag. 

UCLA’s Maya Brady nearly claimed the homer of the day with a rocket to left field before Kistler climbed up the left-field wall, robbing the Bruins from adding two more runs to the scoreboard. 

The game got out of hand for the Gators in the fourth inning due to uncharacteristic errors. 

The frame started with Hightower walking the leadoff batter, right fielder Pola, for the second straight inning. A sacrifice bunt advanced Pola into scoring position and forced a pitching change. 

Florida junior Rylee Trlicek took pitching responsibilities with two outs remaining. An errant throw put runners on the corners before infielder Skylar Wallace mishandled a routine ground ball to bring in another run for the Bruins. 

UCLA continued the scoring efforts as senior Briana Perez singled to shortstop to force two more unearned runs, increasing the deficit to 4-0. The sequence forced a second pitching change in the fourth; right-handed pitcher Natalie Lugo got the call and capped the inning with a strikeout.

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Just one disastrous inning was enough to cement the Gators’ downfall.

Florida remained scoreless through the next two frames, only getting two runners on base before UCLA landed in the finishing blow.

Brady, who was robbed of a homer by Kistler earlier in the game, returned to bat in the sixth with the bases loaded. Her single to right field brought in two runs.

Finally, Pola sent the Gators with a single to center field, as the eight-run rule closed out the game. 

The Gators’ loss signifies the end of  Lugo, fifth year infielder Hannah Adams and senior Cheyenne Lindsey’s collegiate careers. The defeat concludes a season marked by inexperience throughout the lineup. Florida notched its most wins in a season since 2019 with 49.

The Bruins will take on No. 1-seed Oklahoma in the semifinals Monday while the Gators enter the offseason.

Contact Curtis Michaud at Follow him on Twitter @CurtisMichaud1.

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Curtis Michaud

Curtis Michaud is a fourth-year student at the University of Florida within the College of Journalism and Communications. He specializes in sports and media and would like to continue to provide authentic, thorough, and engaging sport content for all readers. He is an enterprise reporter and lacrosse and track and field writer for The Alligator.

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