Florida sophomore pitcher Lexie Delbrey fired the ball down the middle of the zone to strike out Rutgers senior outfielder Taylor Fawcett in the top of the fifth inning.
The strikeout added to the Georgia native’s career day at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium.
The No. 12 Florida Gators (19-4) beat the No. 24 Louisiana Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns’ (18-9) and the Rutgers Scarlet Knights (17-8) by mercy rule in their doubleheader Sunday to close the Bubly Invitational. UF allowed only three runs throughout the day and homered five times.
Gators graduate student right-handed pitcher Elizabeth Hightower started Florida’s evening of softball in the circle against Louisiana.
Ragin’ Cajuns freshman outfielder Mihyia Davis went first at bat against Hightower. She attacked the ball in the batter's box and grounded it past Hightower for a single and the first hit of the day.
Two pop-fly outs later — and a Davis steal at second base — Florida sophomore infielder Reagan Walsh got under another pop-fly. She caught the ball to end the top of the first inning.
UF started the bottom of the inning with two consecutive outs. Gators graduate student third baseman Charla Echols doubled past Louisiana sophomore left fielder Maddie Hayden, who ran into the wall in an attempt to catch it.
Ragin’ Cajuns senior right-handed pitcher Meghan Schorman struck out Florida freshman designated hitter Olivia Gigante after Echols' double to end the first frame.
Schorman — who pitched seven innings in Saturday's game against Florida — led Louisiana’s defense through the first inning with no errors.
Hightower walked Louisiana junior catcher Sophie Piskos to start the second. She rebounded and had back-to-back strikeouts to end the top of the inning. The Monticello, Florida, native struck out two Ragin’ Cajuns through 3.2 innings in UF’s first game.
The Gators turned the mundane game on its head when graduate student utility player Pal Egan smacked the ball past the wall to right center field. The home run brought Walsh home, and UF led 2-0 in the bottom of the second.
Florida junior catcher Emily Wilkie singled after the two-run home run. Louisiana head coach Gerry Glasco walked to the circle and ended Schorman’s day. Louisiana senior pitcher Kandra Lamb replaced Schorman.
Lamb quickly sank into a bases-loaded situation. She walked two straight batters, which ended her day 10 minutes in.
Ragin’ Cajuns senior pitcher Karly Heath came in to replace her in the circle but failed to contain the situation.
Echols hit a pop fly above third base with two outs in the bottom of the second inning. Louisiana sophomore infielder Stormy Kotzenlick had the sun in her eyes and didn’t catch the ball, which landed on the tip of her glove.
Florida sophomore outfielder Kendra Falby and junior outfielder Katie Kistler ran home when Echols doubled due to the Ragin' Cajuns’ error. Heath caught Gigante swinging to end the inning, and UF led 4-0.
The top of the third inning ended with three consecutive outs; Kistler ran into the wall in center field to make the catch for one of the outs.
The Gators tallied more runs in the bottom of the third inning. Wilkie hit the ball past the left-field wall for a two-run home run to extend UF’s lead to 6-0.
Louisiana sophomore pitcher Sam Landry replaced Heath after she allowed an error, gave up a hit and walked Wallace. She came into the game with the bases loaded for Florida.
She walked Echols and gave UF a run. Gigante followed the walk with a grand slam down center field to widen the Gators’ advantage to 11-0.
Gigante — who hit three of her four career home runs in the invitational — said her batting improved because she pushed herself through practice, and the coaching staff helped her swing.
“Just getting into the game, relaxing, and just doing it myself,” Gigante said.
Florida scored seven runs in the bottom of the third. The offensive explosion gave UF its first game with 10 or more runs since Friday.
Freshman infielder Lauren Alfred retaliated with a home run in the Ragin’ Cajuns’ first at-bat of the fourth inning.
Louisiana woke up on offense after the home run. The team found itself with runners on second and third base after Kotzelnick doubled. Hightower allowed Piskos to run home after Ragin' Cajuns shortstop Kayla Griffin grounded to third and was thrown out at first.
Gators head coach Tim Walton strolled to the circle and gave Hightower the cue to walk toward the dugout. Senior left-handed pitcher Rylee Trlicek replaced her. She struck out Louisiana sophomore outfielder Kayla Falterman to end the top of the fourth inning.
The Ragin' Cajuns made their fourth pitching change of the day and brought redshirt freshman pitcher Tyler Oubre into the game. Louisiana allowed one error and held Florida scoreless to end the inning.
Florida didn’t allow any more runs and won the game via run-rule. UF defeated Louisiana 11-2 through five innings.
UF’s latter game of the evening against Rutgers started with Delbrey in the circle. She didn’t allow a single hit in the opening frame of game two.
Falby came up to bat first against Scarlet Knights junior right-handed pitcher Morgan Smith. The pitcher sent the 5-foot-7-inch outfielder to first after she hit her right arm with the ball.
Florida infielder Skylar Wallace — batting second in the lineup for the second game — took the ball and went yard on her first swing. Her bat made contact, and the ball went deep to center field for a two-run home run.
Smith walked Echols and allowed a Gigante double after the home run.
Rutgers head coach Kristen Butler — a former Southeastern Conference Player of the Year for Florida — brought freshman righty Raimy Gamsby to the circle with the bases loaded.
Egan grounded to Scarlet Knights fifth-year utility player Taylor Lane, who tagged Walsh out and threw to first base to complete the double play. Echols strolled to home plate to push UF’s lead to 3-0 at the end of the first inning.
Delbrey struggled in the top of the second inning. She walked Rutgers redshirt senior catcher Katie Wingert and pitched straight to the knee of senior infielder Payton Lincavage.
Scarlet Knights sophomore designated hitter Georgia Ingle grounded to second base and allowed Lincavage to score Rutgers’ first run of the game. Delbrey finished the top of the inning with no errors or hits.
The Gators' struggles continued into the bottom of the second. The Scarlet Knights forced UF out of the inning with three consecutive outs.
Florida’s defense followed suit with three straight outs to start the third inning. Delbrey finished the inning with pitcher-against-pitcher action. She pitched through the center of the zone and struck out Gamsby to end the half inning.
Echols tallied her sixth home run of the season when she hit the ball to deep center field to improve UF’s lead to 4-1.
Gigante walked, and Walsh doubled. Egan then grounded to first base and was tagged out at the bag. She was awarded a run batted in as Gigante scored.
Gators junior utility player Avery Goelz earned an RBI after her single brought Walsh home. UF ended the inning up 6-1.
Delbrey — who struck out four batters through five innings — continued her hot streak in the circle. She orchestrated another quick 1-2-3 inning to start the fourth.
Falby singled to start the bottom of the fourth inning.
Wingert tried to catch Falby stealing second after Scarlet Knights graduate student pitcher Jaden Vickers pitched a strike toward Echols.
The throw to second went over Lane and rolled into center field. Fably slid to third and stole the base.
Vickers quickly found herself in a bases-loaded dilemma after she walked Echols and Walsh.
Egan sent a pop fly above Scarlet Knights junior outfielder Leilani Chavez’s head. The ball dropped into her glove, but she couldn’t secure the catch. The ball fell to the ground, and two Gators scored off the error.
Goelz rallied two more runs for Florida when she singled to right field. UF ended the fourth inning up 10-1 against the Scarlet Knights.
Delbrey shut Rutgers out in the top of the fifth inning to claim the Gators’ second mercy-rule victory of the day and the first no-hitter of her career.
“I feel like all my hard work is finally paying off,” Delbrey said. “I’m just really happy that my defense is behind me because I would not be able to do it by myself.”
Florida will stay in Gainesville and prepare for a matchup against the Bucknell Bisons at 6 p.m Wednesday. The game will be broadcast on SEC Network.
Contact Brandon Hernandez at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @BranH2001.
Brandon Hernandez is a student at the University of Florida studying journalism. He is a writer for The Alligator, Gator Country and for PlugTalkSports. You can find most of his work on his Twitter (BranH2001) and on his podcast, “The Courtside Podcast,” on Spotify.