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Friday, June 02, 2023

No. 11 Florida ran out of juice in comeback against Gamecocks Friday

Gators allowed seven runs after they scored seven themselves in the same inning

Florida pitcher Lexie Delbrey pitches the ball during the Gators' 3-0 win against the Central Florida Knights Wednesday, March 8, 2023.
Florida pitcher Lexie Delbrey pitches the ball during the Gators' 3-0 win against the Central Florida Knights Wednesday, March 8, 2023.

South Carolina freshman catcher Hannah Hawley singled deep to left field with the bases loaded in the bottom of the sixth inning.

As Gamecocks flew home, the crowd at Beckham Field couldn’t believe what they were seeing — neither could the Gators.

The No. 11 Florida Gators lost to the South Carolina Gamecocks at Beckham Field in Columbia, South Carolina, 13-10 Friday. Despite recording 10 runs off nine hits, the Gators allowed eight hits, five walks and two innings with three or more runs scored.

The loss marks UF’s third defeat to the Gamecocks since 2004.

Florida redshirt junior infielder Skylar Wallace affected the game early with a single in first at-bat against South Carolina fifth-year senior pitcher Rachel Vaughan. 

She then stole second base while Gators sophomore outfielder Kendra Falby was at the plate. Falby was thrown out at first for the first out of the game, but Wallace advanced to third.

UF didn’t take advantage of Wallace’s scoring position. Florida sophomore infielder Reagan Walsh grounded to second base, and South Carolina converted a double play to end the opening frame.

Gators sophomore pitcher Lexie Delbrey made her 12th start of the season Friday. She forced three consecutive outs to end the first.

South Carolina took Vaughan out of the circle and replaced her with freshman pitcher Jori Heard in the top of the second inning. The right-handed pitcher went to work and struck out Florida graduate student utility player Pal Egan swinging to start the frame.

Gators sophomore catcher Sam Roe singled to shallow left field with two outs in the top of the second. Despite the hit, Heard finished the front side of the inning allowing no runs.

Delbrey’s pitches drifted away from the zone after UF got an out in the bottom of the second inning. Gamecocks junior outfielder Aniyah Black walked after Belbrey hit her on the inside of her hip.

South Carolina followed the walk with its first hit of the game — a single through the right side of the field by sophomore outfielder Marissa Gonzalez. Delbrey walked Gamecocks fifth-year senior catcher Jordan Fabian and found herself in a bases-loaded situation.

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Florida head coach Tim Walton went to the circle, but it didn’t slow the momentum. Delbrey hit South Carolina sophomore infielder Emma Sellers with a pitch to her ankles. Freshman outfielder Kyye Ricks ran home for the first run of the game.

The Gators’ struggles continued as Gamecocks junior outfielder Aaliyah White reached first base due to a muffed throw to UF junior first baseman Avery Goelz. Fabian and Gonzalez scored before Florida could pick the ball up.

The Gators allowed one more South Carolina run — a score by Sellers — before they ended the second inning down 4-0.

Wallace bunted to the pitcher for a single and later stole second. Then the chase happened.

Falby grounded across the third-base foul line and was thrown out at first. Wallace passed third base and got stuck between third and home.

Florida’s stolen base leader slid to third base and avoided the South Carolina junior infielder Zoe Laneaux’s glove. She was called safe at third and gave the Gators their second chance to score.

UF graduate student third baseman Charla Echols walked to first. Walsh then doubled to right field, which brough Echols and Wallace home. Gamecocks senior pitcher Karsen Ochs replaced Heard after the hit.

Ochs finished the top of the third inning and didn't allow another Florida run. The Gamecocks led 4-2.

South Carolina’s bats went back to work. Laneaux singled to third base, and Gamecocks junior infielder Riley Blampied also singled to start the bottom of the inning.

Delbrey hit Black at-bat after the two singles — the third South Carolina player hit in the game. Gators senior pitcher Rylee Trlicek replaced Delbrey with UF facing another bases-loaded dilemma with no outs.

Trlicek got a lucky break with her first challenge of the game. Gonzalez grounded to third base, and Echols threw Laneaux out at home plate. Florida junior catcher Emily Wilkie threw Gonzalez out at first to complete the double-play.

However, the defensive display by the Gators’ infielders went unnoticed as Fabian doubled to center field. The hit allowed Black and Blampied to score. South Carolina left the third inning with a 6-2 lead.

The fourth inning gave fans a breather for both sides. Trlicek walked Gamecocks junior catcher Jen Cummings and forced three outs to end the half inning.

UF got onto the diamond when Wallace walked to start the fifth inning. South Carolina senior pitcher Donnie Gobourne replaced Ochs after she allowed a single to Falby.

The Florida Atlantic transfer got Echols out due to a pop fly caught in the infield. However, she then hit Walsh on the elbow with a pitch to put Florida in a bases-loaded advantage for the first time.

The Gators took advantage of the situation and scored a run off an out by Egan that led to a fielder's choice to first base. It brought in Wallace for the run. 

UF didn’t add on anymore runs in the inning, however. South Carolina led 6-3 going into the bottom of the fifth.

Black opened the bottom of the inning with a double after Walsh committed a throwing error in left field. Echols tagged Black out on a fielder's choice, and Gonazalez ran to first.

Florida’s infielders kept South Carolina scoreless in the inning. Wallace slingshotted the ball to first base after she picked up a ground ball by Sellers for the final out of the inning.

Gobourne walked Goelz, Roe and Gators junior outfielder Katie Kistler to start the sixth inning. Out of nowhere, UF had the bases loaded once again with no outs.

Junior pitcher Leah Powell replaced the Gamecocks’ right-handed pitcher. She was the last starting South Carolina pitcher to beat Florida back in 2021.

Falby came in the clutch for the Gators after Walsh was caught out in center field. She made contact for a single to center field. The ball slipped out of Gamecocks junior outfielder Aaliyah White’s glove, and Goelz and Roe scored to bring the Gators within one, 6-5.

With the pressure rising, Powell walked Walsh to first and brought Kistler home. The bases were still loaded, and the game was tied with one out.

South Carolina head coach Beverly Smith made the change to take Powell out and bring in senior pitcher Bailey Betenbaugh.

The senior pitcher got an out but followed it by walking Wilkie, which brought Falby home. Florida controlled its first lead of the night, up 7-6.

Then the gates opened for UF.

Roe tripled to right-center field and Wilkie, Wellen and Echols scored. Florida led 10-6 when the top of the inning finished.

Florida got an out to start the bottom of the sixth inning. However, Trlicek walked sophomore infielder Brooke Blankenship and then hit junior catcher Jen Cummings to put two Gamecocks on the diamond.

Laneaux doubled to right-center field and brought Blankenship in for a run.

Trlicek walked Blampied after the run, and the Gators faced another bases-loaded situation.

Laneaux scored off a pitch that slipped out of Wilikie’s glove. Trlicek hit Fabian with her next pitch and rotated the turnstiles to bring in another South Carolina run.

With bases still loaded and two outs in the bottom of the inning, Sellers singled up the gut, and Gamecocks fifth-year senior Natalie Morgan ran home. South Carolina took the lead back, 11-10.

UF trailed 13-10 at the end of the inning. The Gators gave up seven runs alone in the sixth inning but also scored seven of their own.

With the tables quickly turned against the Gators, Wallace made it just in time to first base for a single but nothing came of it. The single was the only thing that Florida mustered in the seventh.

Echols popped the ball to left field and was caught out to end the game. The Gamecocks won 13-10.

Florida will stay in Columbia to play against South Carolina for the second game of its three-game series against the Gamecocks. The game will be streamed on SEC Network+.

Contact Brandon Hernandez at Follow him on Twitter @BranH2001.

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Brandon Hernandez

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.

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