Florida sophomore second baseman Reagan Walsh hit a leadoff single, and sophomore outfielder Christina Wellen pinch ran for her. Walsh’s single was followed by a walk from graduate student utility player Pal Egan and senior catcher Sarah Longley that loaded the bases.
Junior designated player Emily Wilkie then lined up at-bat and hit a walk-off grand slam to secure the Gators’ victory over the Bulls.
“I’m super happy for her; that’s a great moment,” head coach Tim Walton said. “She has had some opportunities in the past and has delivered some pretty good moments for us, but that was by far her best hit.”
The No. 13 Florida Gators (32-11, 8-7 SEC) defeated the South Florida Bulls (27-19, 6-3 ACC) 7-3 Wednesday evening in Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium.
UF graduate student right-handed pitcher Elizabeth Hightower started in the circle for the Gators. Hightower struck out freshmen shortstop Kathy Garcia and retired the side in order 1-2-3 to end the top half of the first.
Wallace singled to shortstop and advanced to second on a stolen base. Walsh then homered to center field. Her fifth home run of the season brought Wallace home for the first runs of the game.
USF senior left-handed pitcher Gabriella Nori ended the bottom half of the first when she struck out graduate student utility player Pal Egan.
Junior catcher Rian Eigenmann singled through the left side and was later brought home after junior first baseman Jordyn Kadlub doubled down the left-field line. The Bulls scored their first run of the game to bring them within one, 2-1, to end the top of the second.
Florida sophomore designated player Sam Roe advanced to first after she was hit by a pitch. Senior catcher Sarah Longley singled through the left side and advanced Roe to second base.
Wallace singled to right-center and brought Roe home to extend Florida’s lead to 3-1 in the bottom half of the second.
Nori walked sophomore center fielder Kendra Falby to load the bases. UF graduate student third baseman Charla Echols nearly hit a home run, but her ball was caught out to close out the inning.
Hightower held the Bulls scoreless through the third inning. USF senior right fielder Meghan Sheehan singled through the left side and advanced to second on a wild pitch.
Senior designated player Vivian Ponn homered to left field and brought Sheehan home to tie the game at three. Hightower ended the top half of the fourth with back-to-back strikeouts to Eigenmann and Kadlub.
Gators junior catcher Emily Wilkie singled to center field in the bottom half of the fourth. Nori walked Wallace, which advanced Wilkie to second base. However, Nori and the Bulls’ defense ended the inning with Wikie and Wallace stranded and didn’t allow any runs to be scored.
Hightower walked senior second baseman Meghan Pierro to begin the fifth. Pierro then advanced to second on a wild pitch from Hightower to Longley. Echols and Wilkie ended the half with a 3-1 out to Garcia.
Ponn replaced Nori in the bottom half of the fifth. Walsh singled to center field and advanced to second after Roe singled to right-center. Ponn walked Longley to load the bases, but she was caught out to end the inning with no runs scored.
UF senior left-handed pitcher Rylee Trlicek replaced Hightower in the top of the sixth. Trlicek held the Bulls scoreless through the top half with a runner left stranded on base. Florida was held scoreless through the bottom half of the sixth after Falby struck out swinging.
Trlicek closed out the top half of the seventh after she retired the side in order 1-2-3. Walsh hit a leadoff single through the left side. Sophomore outfielder Christina Wellen pinch ran for Walsh. Egan walked and advanced to second after Roe hit a sacrifice bunt. Ponn walked Longley to load the bases.
Wilkie hit a walk-off home run that brought Longley, Egan and Wellen to win the game by a score of 7-3.
“Running around third base and seeing coach there and all my teammates smiling big for me was huge,” Wilkie said.
UF will begin its series against the Tennessee Volunteers in Sherri Parker Lee Stadium at 4 p.m. Saturday. The game will be streamed on ESPNU.
Alyssa Britton-Harr is a second-year journalism major and a sports reporter for The Alligator. In her free time, she enjoys cheering on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and spending time with her friends.