Arkansas junior utility player Hannah Gammill glanced at the outfield as graduate student pitcher Elizabeth Hightower pitched the ball toward her.
Gammill stood tall in the batter's box and hit the ball into the night sky.
The ball just missed that left field foul pole and gave Gammill a home run. The Gators lost their lead in another battle against a Southeastern Conference opponent.
The No. 8 Florida Gators (23-6, 2-2 SEC) lost to the No. 12 Arkansas Razorbacks (23-8, 4-3 SEC) 6-2 Friday on the road at Bolge Park in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Florida lost its early lead and never got back in front.
The loss marked the first time this season UF has lost a game when it held the first lead.
Gators redshirt junior infielder Skylar Wallace didn’t swing at a single ball for a full count. Razorbacks redshirt senior Chenise Delce’s next pitch went into the dirt to put Wallace on base.
Wallace was attentive while Florida sophomore second baseman Reagan Walsh was at bat. She sprinted all the way to third base for her third stolen base of the year.
Walsh grounded to third base and was thrown out at first, but Wallace ran home for the Gators’ first run of the day. The run was Walsh’s first run batted in of the season.
UF didn’t score again in the inning. Delce ended the opening frame with a strikeout against Florida freshman infielder Kaila Pollard.
Hightower started in the circle. She held the Razorbacks’ first two batters off base until she walked Arkansas redshirt junior utility player Rylin Hedgecock.
Hightower finished the first inning without allowing a hit.
Delce regrouped herself in the second inning after a rough start. She struck out UF junior outfielder Katie Kistler and held the Gators hitless to end the top of the inning.
Hightower struck out Razorbacks junior infielder Cylie Halvorson in the first at-bat. Sophomore outfielder Kacie Hoffmann singled to give Arkansas its first hit of the game in the bottom of the second.
Florida’s pitcher walked Razorbacks freshman infielder Lauren Camenzind, but the defense produced two consecutive outs to finish the second inning.
Arkansas returned the favor in the top of the third inning. It only gave up a walk to Wallace in the inning.
Hightower — who finished with two strikeouts through 3.1 innings — had a consistent start. She struck out Hedgecock swinging to end the third inning with the Gators on top 1-0.
Florida got out of its hitting funk in the top of the fourth inning. Delce walked Kistler, and senior utility player Sarah Longley singled after Pollard struck out looking.
With two outs in the inning, Arkansas fended off another Gator hit. UF junior first baseman Avery Goelz popped to right field and was caught out to end Florida’s at-bat.
The Razorbacks caught a break from Hightower’s phenomenal start. Gammill hit a home run to left field and narrowly missed the foul pole.
After a wild pitch with Hoffmann at-bat, Halvorson advanced to third. Arkansas quickly had its first opportunity to take the lead from Florida.
Hoffman grounded to Walsh at second base, and the sophomore infielder threw to home plate. She didn’t catch Halvorson, who scored to give the Razorbacks their first lead of the game.
Gators head coach Tim Walton made a trip to the circle after Arkansas graduate student infielder Kristina Foreman grounded to first and was tagged out at the bag. The ground ball allowed the Razorbacks to advance to second and third base and ended Hightower’s day in the circle.
Florida senior pitcher Rylee Trlieck replaced Hightower. Arkansas freshman infielder Atalyia Rojo popped a fly ball to left field for an out, which allowed Hoffmann to score.
UF allowed two hits and three runs in the fourth inning and trailed 3-1 going into the fifth.
Florida sophomore outfielder Kendra Falby was caught swinging for the first out of the fifth inning. However, Wallace and Walsh hit back-to-back singles to give graduate student third baseman Charla Echols the chance to retake the lead for the Gators.
Echols grounded to Delce and dashed to first base. What was supposed to be a routine out for the Razorbacks turned into a mental mistake.
Delce threw to Gammill at third base. The Beebe, Arkansas, native fumbled the ball, and Wallace strolled home to bring Florida within one. The Razorbacks led 3-2 after the top of the inning.
Despite the blunder by Gammill in the previous inning, she made up for it quickly with her next at-bat.
UF grabbed two straight outs to start the bottom of the fifth. Gammill then whacked the ball off the foul pole in left field for her second home run of the night. The Gators didn’t allow another run through the end of the inning. Arkansas led 4-2 going into the sixth.
Kistler led off to start the inning. She sliced the ball into center field and slid to second base for Florida’s first double of the game.
Two pop fly outs followed the double. UF graduate student utility player Pal Egan grounded to third base and was thrown out at first to end the top of the inning.
Foreman grounded toward Trlicek, and the ball went past her. The single advanced Razorbacks freshman infielder Lauren Camenzind to second.
Rijo singled up the middle, which allowed Camenzind to run home and extend Arkansas’s lead to 5-2.
Florida graduate student pitcher Samantha Bender replaced Trlicek in the circle. Bender walked Arkansas freshman outfielder Reagan Johnson and immediately put UF in a bases loaded situation.
Razorbacks sophomore outfielder Raigan Kramer grounded to the circle. Bender threw her out, but the ground ball brought Foreman home for Arkansas’ second run of the inning.
Bender struck out Hedgecock swinging to end the inning. Florida had one last chance to climb back from its 6-2 deficit as the top of the seventh inning began.
The Gators didn’t find what they needed against Delce — who pitched all seven innings. UF freshman first baseman Olivia Gigante struck out swinging and ended Florida’s hopes for a comeback victory.
UF will stay in Fayetteville for its second game against Arkansas Saturday at 9 p.m. The game will be broadcast on ESPN2.
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.