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Friday, April 12, 2024

Florida dominates in Friday’s doubleheader win

Skylar Wallace hit a three-run home run to earn the first win of the Bubly Invitational weekend

Florida right-handed pitcher Keagan Rothrock dominates in the circle during the Gators’ 9-1 win over Jacksonville, Wednesday, February 14, 2024.
Florida right-handed pitcher Keagan Rothrock dominates in the circle during the Gators’ 9-1 win over Jacksonville, Wednesday, February 14, 2024.

The Katie Presley Stadium was filled with fans bundled up in sweaters as the Gators faced Georgia Southern in Game 1 of the 2024 Bubly Invitational.

In the bottom of the fifth and one out on the board, redshirt senior shortstop Skylar Wallace faced a full count. She got a fastball and crushed the ball over the left-center field wall for a three-run home run.

Her teammates met Wallace, freshman Cassidy McLellan and junior centerfielder Kendra Falby at home plate with a group hug as Florida earned its first victory of the weekend.

The offense and the Gators’ pitching staff helped lead Florida (7-1) to two wins over Georgia Southern (4-2) 8-0 and Loyola Chicago (5-1) 10-1 for the 2024 Bubly Invitational.

Georgia Southern Blowout

Florida dominated during its first game of Friday’s doubleheader. Freshman right-handed pitcher Keagan Rothrock continued her strong start to the season, recording eight strikeouts. Florida’s offense continued its hot streak, hitting three home runs.

Junior infielder Reagan Walsh led off the Gators in the bottom of the fourth. On a 1-1-count, Walsh hammered a ball over the left field wall, extending the lead to 3-0. The monster home run extended the lead to 3-0.

Rothrock recorded her seventh strikeout of the game in a 1-2-3 top of the fifth inning.

Then, sophomore catcher Jocelyn Erickson crushed a lead-off home run in the bottom of the fifth over the center field wall. She made her way to home plate with a huge grin, knowing she tallied her first home run of the season.

“I had been waiting for it,” Erickson said. “It was really exciting and thrilling rounding third to my teammates.”

Georgia Southern managed two hits off of Rothrock and left four runners on base.

By the end of the sixth inning, the Gators led 8-0, and Wallace's three-run homer ended the game.

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Loyola win under Friday night lights 

The energy from the crowd of fans continued in the second game of Friday's Doubleheader..

The Gators got themselves in a jam to begin the game. In the first inning, Loyola started with one out and the bases loaded. Though, freshman right-handed pitcher Ava Brown stayed poised to escape the jam. She used a fastball to record a strikeout and the final out of the inning. 

Creating a dynamic with the catcher and building a bond has given the freshman confidence in the circle, she said.

“We also know we have the other three pitchers on our staff to help us out,” she said. “That more than anything inflicts so much confidence.”

In the bottom of the second, Florida’s offense started right where they left off, scoring five runs in the inning.

Two scored after Erickson smashed a hard-hit ball to the second baseman, who was unable to make the play. Falby and Wallace were able to come home on the error.

Loyola junior pitcher Peyton Pepkowski managed to limit the damage to two runs. 

In the top of the second inning, Loyola sophomore catcher Abbie Gregus hit a deep home run to center field to put the Ramblers on the scoreboard. It would be the only run Loyola would score, and the first given up by Brown all season.

Erickson continued her offensive success in the third inning. With the bases loaded and one out, Erikson hit a line drive down the right field line. As she jogged into second base, fans gave her a standing ovation as she recorded her fifth RBI of the game, a season-high.

Defensively, the Gators executed a double play to end the frame in the top of the 4th.

Freshman left-handed pitcher Olivia Miller ran into trouble in the fifth. But with two runners on base, she forced the batter to swing on a strike right down the middle to escape the trouble.

Next up, the Gators will play another doubleheader on Saturday at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium. The Gators will continue the Bubly Invitational and face the College of Charleston at 10:15 a.m. and Georgia Southern at 12:30 p.m.

Contact Hailey Hurst at Follow her on Twitter @haileyjhurst.

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Hailey Hurst

Hailey Hurst is a second-year journalism major with a focus in sports media and a sports reporter for The Alligator. In her free time, she enjoys going to the beach and cheering for Miami sports teams.

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