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Monday, April 22, 2024

Gators softball gets shutout by No. 6 Oklahoma State

A third-inning home run from the Cowgirls lifted them over Florida 3-0

Florida softball freshman pitcher Keagan Rothrock fields a ball in the Gators' 3-0 loss to the Oklahoma State Cowgirls on Monday, February 19, 2024.
Florida softball freshman pitcher Keagan Rothrock fields a ball in the Gators' 3-0 loss to the Oklahoma State Cowgirls on Monday, February 19, 2024.

Coming into the Gators softball contest Tuesday, the Florida pitching staff had a combined ERA of 0.37. In eight games, the staff had given up just three earned runs across 57 innings.

On Monday, in a surprise matchup with the No. 6 Oklahoma State Cowgirls, head coach Tim Walton sent freshman Keagan Rothrock to the circle with hopes of the No. 16 Gators upsetting the Cowgirls. 

Rothrock had been one of the most impressive young pitchers on the team, coming into the contest with four complete games and 31 strikeouts in 31 innings. 

And it was looking good for the freshman through the first two innings of play. However, one mistake — one pitch — could alter a game. That was the case for Rothrock. 

On a 2-2 count in the top of third inning, Rothrock fired a 71 MPH fastball on the outside part of the plate. Oklahoma State’s Karli Godwin flung her bat out at the fastball and the ball barely sailed over the left field fence, putting the Cowgirls up 3-0.

Rothrock said she would’ve put it further outside. 

“Literally one batter, one bad pitch is what lost the game,” Rothrock said.

It was all Oklahoma State (7-2) would need, as they traveled to Gainesville and defeated Florida (8-2) 3-0 Monday night. 

After a rain-filled weekend canceled three of UF’s games in the Bubly Invitational, the Gators scheduled the top 25 matchup Sunday. Oklahoma State was already in Clearwater, Florida, for a separate tournament, so they made the two-hour trip up north to face UF in Gainesville. 

It was the first ranked opponent Florida faced all year, and it came on short notice.

“It was exciting,” Rothrock said. “But definitely a moment where I need to keep my nerves in check just because it’s the first big opponent. But at the same time, we have a ball game to win.” 

In the top of the first, the freshman pitcher gave up a leadoff walk but came back to record two strikeouts and pop-out to strand the runner on first. 

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Oklahoma State started Lexi Kilfoyl on the mound. She was a problem for Florida’s hitters all night. She had no issue in the bottom of the first, striking out both redshirt senior Skylar Wallace and junior outfielder Kendra Falby before getting junior catcher Jocelyn Erickson to line out to third base. 

Rothrock responded with a 1-2-3 inning of her own, getting two strikeouts and a line out. 

Florida threatened Oklahoma State in the bottom of the second after Walsh led off the inning with a walk and freshman first baseman Ava Brown hustled out an infield single. But a flyout from freshman utility Ariel Kowaewski and a groundout from freshman infielder Mia Williams caused the Gators to strand the runners. 

Oklahoma State’s Scotland David got the first hit of the game for Oklahoma State in the top of the third, getting a single to fall in left field. After recording the first out of the inning, Rothrock walked Tallen Edwards to set up runners on first and second with one out. 

Rothrock rebounded and got an important strikeout, igniting the small, but energetic Katie Seashole Pressly crowd. 

Then, the crowd was quieted following the home run from Godwin. 

From there, there was no offense to be found from UF. Kilfoyl did an impressive job of keeping Gators hitters off balance, and she finished the night giving up just three hits and only two walks. She struck out six and went the distance for the shutout. 

Rothrock pitched a strong six innings, striking out seven Cowgirls.

Offensively, senior outfielder Katie Kistler finished the contest with two of the Gators’ three hits. Brown recorded the other hit on an infield single in the second inning. 

Despite hitting the ball hard, Wallace finished the game 0-for-3, striking out once. 

It was Rothrock’s first start against a ranked opponent. In the SEC, one of the most talented softball conferences in the country, it certainly won’t be her last. 

“It was a lot of fun,” she said. “I’ve always loved to play under higher pressure situations.”

The Gators will return to the diamond Wednesday to face the University of North Florida for a doubleheader in Jacksonville. First pitch of Game 1 is at 4 p.m. and Game 2 is at 6:30 p.m. 

Contact Bennett Solomon at bsolomon@alligator.org. Follow him on X @B_Soly11.

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