Florida senior utility player Sarah Longley hit a leadoff home run in the bottom of the seventh inning to tie up the game against Loyola Marymount. Sophomore second baseman Regan Walsh then singled through the left side where redshirt sophomore Christina Wellen then pinch ran for her.
Gators graduate student third baseman Charla Echols then advanced the winning run to second base with a single. A walk off single from graduate student utility player Pal Egan brought home Wellen to end the game with a one-run lead
The No. 20 Florida Gators (37-20, 11-13 SEC) defeated the Loyola Marymount Lions (40-14, 12-3 WCC) 3-2 in the first game of the National Collegiate Athletic Association Regionals in Palo Alto, California Friday.
Florida graduate student right-handed pitcher Elizabeth Hightower started in the circle for the Gators. LMU sophomore outfielder Sydney Poole singled to shortstop, but Longley threw her out as Poole tried to steal second.
A groundout from Loyola Marymount senior outfielder Morgan DeBord and a strikeout from Hightower ended the top of the first with no runs scored.
LMU junior pitcher Jenna Perez started for the Lions by striking out junior shortstop Skylar Wallace. Echols hit a fly out deep into center field to end the inning.
Hightower struck out LMU sophomore catcher Arianna Jaurequi to start the top of the second. She then walked Lions sophomore Val Pero who advanced to third after freshman catcher Taylor Fitch singled to left field.
LMU freshman infielder Gabby Villa failed to bring Pero home after she flied out to the left field, where UF sophomore center fielder Kendra Falby caught her hit.
Perez held Florida scoreless through the second inning. She struck out Egan, junior catcher Emily Wilkie and freshman infielder Kaila Pollard hit a fly out to center field.
Hightower gave up a walk to Poole to begin the top of the third. DeBord then reached on a fielder's choice where Poole was caught out at second base.
Another walk let up by Higtower to freshman catcher Izzy Jamgotchian advanced DeBord to second base. However, a groundout from Jaurequi ended the half with DeBord stranded on second and Jamgotchian at first.
Falby notched the first hit of the game with a leadoff single to left field. A groundout from UF junior outfielder Katie Kistler advanced Falby to second base.
Perez had her fourth strikeout of the game when she struck out Longley. She walked Wallace, but a fly out from Walsh ended the inning with no runs scored.
Hightower and the Gators retired the side in order and left the Lions scoreless in the top of the fourth.
Perez walked Echols to start the bottom half of the inning. Echols advanced to second after UF sophomore catcher Sam Roe hit a bunt. Wilkie hit a sacrifice fly to advance both Echols and Roe.
Pollard reached on a fielder's choice and advanced to second while Roe moved to third. Echols was tagged out on her way to home plate. Falby singled to shortstop and advanced to second. Pollard had enough time to sprint safely to third and Roe scored to put Florida in the lead by one-run.
Perez then gave up a walk to Kistler and loaded the bases, but didn’t allow the Gators to score any more runs in the fourth. She struck out Florida freshman right-handed pitcher Olivia Gigante.
LMU freshman infielder Gabby Villa homered to left field to tie the game to 1-1 in the top of the fifth. Poole then singled to center field, and DeBord reached on a fielder's choice, where Poole advanced to second base on a fielding error by Walsh.
Jamgotchian singled to left field and Poole scored to put Loyola Marymount in ahead 2-1. UF senior left-handed pitcher Rylee Trlicek replaced Hightower in the top of the fifth. Jaurequi grounded out to first base and Jamgotchian advanced to second, but a groundout from Pero ended the half.
Perez struck out Walsh to start the bottom half of the inning. Echols then hit a two-out single up the middle but a pop up from Roe ended the fifth inning with no runs scored.
Trlicek held the Lions scoreless through the sixth after she struck out both Fitch and sophomore utility player Jasmine Sofowora. Falby stole second after earning a walk at the plate, but a fly out from Kistler left the Gators scoreless through the sixth inning.
Trlicek struck out Poole and DeBord to end the top of the seventh. Longley homered to left field for her seventh home run of the season to tie up the game 2-2.
Walsh singled through left field and Wellen pinch ran for her. Echols then singled to Perez and advanced Wellen to second base. Egan singled up the middle, Echols advanced to second and Wellen hustled home to score the winning run to take the game 3-2 .
UF will continue its run in NCAA Regionals Saturday at 5 p.m. against the winner of game two Stanford and Long Beach State Friday.
Contact Alyssa Britton-Harr at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @abrittonharr.
Alyssa Britton-Harr is a first-year journalism major and the softball reporter for The Aligator. When not writing, you can see her cheering on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, going to country concerts, and spending time with her friends.