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Wednesday, June 12, 2024

No. 14 Florida runs away with Sunday victory to end Ole Miss series

Gators recorded 12 singles throughout Sunday’s contest

UF shortstop Skylar Wallace rounds the bases in the Gators' 8-7 win against the Georgia Bulldogs Saturday, April 15, 2023.
UF shortstop Skylar Wallace rounds the bases in the Gators' 8-7 win against the Georgia Bulldogs Saturday, April 15, 2023.

Ole Miss sophomore pitcher Catelyn Riley couldn’t stop the singles from coming in the bottom of the third inning.

No matter if she did a change up, low pitch or anything else, Florida’s batters ate her alive in the circle hit after hit. 

Despite the dominance midway through Sunday's game, UF didn’t want to slow down and allow the Rebels to come back, Gators head coach Tim Walton said.

“I didn’t think anybody felt like it was over,” Walton said, “didn’t feel like it to me.”

The No. 14 Florida Gators (34-16, 10-11 SEC) run ruled the Ole Miss Rebels (28-23, 7-14 SEC) 12-2 to clinch their last Southeastern Conference regular season series at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium Sunday. 

The Gators scored five or more runs in two innings — including a six-run inning that consisted of six singles.

Florida sophomore pitcher Lexie Delbrey made her ninth start of the season to open the first frame of the evening. Ole Miss senior outfielder Tate Whitley singled to get the game started with the first hit of the day.

Delbrey hit Rebels senior utility player Savana Sikes after the Whitley single. Walton made an early visit to the circle to talk to his right-handed pitcher.

The conversation was quick but not enough to control an Ole Miss run. A pop fly out caught in left field gave Whitley enough time to run home to score.

Sikes scored off a wild pitch following the Whitley run before the last out of the top of the inning; the Rebels led 2-0.

Ole Miss senior pitcher Makenna Kliethermes started in the circle in the bottom of the first inning.

UF welcomed her back for her second start of this series with a walk by Florida graduate student third baseman Charla Echols and junior catcher Emily Wilkie. A single by Gators sophomore infielder Reagan Walsh loaded the bases within 12 minutes.

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UF graduate student utility player Pal Egan singled to right field and got Echols in for the first Florida run of the day. Another run came in after Kliethermes walked Gators senior utility player Sarah Longley to rotate the loaded bases around the diamond.

Rebels freshman pitcher Grace Sparks replaced Kliethermes in the circle with one out in the bottom of the inning. The change did nothing to avoid another UF run.

She walked Florida freshman infielder Kaila Pollard, which brought Wilkie in for a score, and sophomore outfielder Kendra Falby singled for two more runs. Florida had a 5-2 lead after the run-heavy first inning.

Delbrey didn’t allow a single hit and retired the top of the second inning through four batters faced. Ole Miss’ defense returned the favor and held the Gators from reaching second base throughout the inning.

The Rebels continued to struggle at bat after their two-run first inning. UF’s defense quickly collected three consecutive outs to end the top of the third inning.

Egan singled, and Longley and Pollard walked to open the bottom of the third, which loaded the bases for Florida for the second time of the game. Riley replaced Sparks — who pitched through 1.2 innings.

Gators junior first baseman Avery Goelz opened the floodgates with a two-run single. Four more singles followed after Goelz’s hit — each one resulted in a run. UF led 11-2 after the third inning.

The Gators' offense made life a little bit easier for Delbrey from there on out. The sophomore pitcher grew confidence from Florida's batters, she said.

“I’m thankful that our offense is capable of doing that because it boosts a pitcher's confidence,” Delbrey said. “It’s good to have the hitters that we have to win.”

The Rebels didn’t catch a break after the Gators’ six-run inning. Florida retired the top of the fourth inning with three straight outs within 10 minutes.

UF opened the bottom of the fourth with two singles. Echols then gave the Gators their first double of the game, and Wallace sprinted home. 

Echols — who produced three hits and two RBI’s Sunday — finished the game with a batting average of .389.

“Charla really picked us up,” Walton said.

Ole Miss senior pitcher Brooke Vestal replaced Riley in the circle and finished the fourth inning; Florida led 12-2.

Delbrey — who pitched the entire game and allowed only one hit — struck Rebels sophomore infielder Brooke Barnard out swinging, but she walked Whitley and Sikes early in the top of the fifth inning.

Despite the walks, the Gators’ defense produced two straight outs to run rule Ole Miss and claim their last regular season home series of the season.

Florida will now prepare to face its in-state rival — No. 4 Florida State — at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium at 6 p.m. Wednesday. The game will be broadcast on ESPNU.

Contact Brandon Hernandez at bhernandez@alligator.org. Follow him on Twitter @BranH2001.

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Brandon Hernandez

Brandon Hernandez is currently the enterprise sports writer and sports podcast host for The Independent Alligator. He likes long walks on the sidewalk and watching basketball tape in his off time. You can find most of his work @BranH2001 on X and on The Courtside Podcast on Spotify.


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