In three games so far this season, Florida softball freshman pitchers Keagan Rothrock and Ava Brown have shined.
After a rough 2023 pitching season, the Gators' pitching staff has given up only two runs in 17 innings. Despite losing one game, they’ve helped the Gators earn two wins in the USF-Rawlings Invitational.
Combined, the duo delivered eight strikeouts and opponents have an average of 0.043.
The No. 17 Gators (1-1) split a pair of Saturday games, falling 2-1 to Michigan (2-1) and defeating Illinois State (0-4) 12-1 in Tampa at the USF-Rawlings Invitational.
Florida comes up short to Michigan
A scoreless seven innings turned into a 10-inning marathon before the action began and the Gators fell 2-1 to the Wolverines.
Florida started strong defensively as junior centerfielder Kendra Falby made a strong throw from center field to a runner racing home. Sophomore catcher Jocelynn Erickson applied the tag to keep the game scoreless.
Both teams had a slow start offensively. Florida went down in order 1-2-3 in the first two innings. Michigan had the opportunity to move runners, but Florida’s defense recorded three ground ball outs.
Leading off in the third, freshman third baseman Ariel Kowalewski had her first collegiate hit on a double to center field. Michigan escaped the jam as junior pitcher Lauren Derkowski forced two flyouts and one strikeout.
The scoreless matchup continued as both teams fought back-and-forth, refusing to give up a run. Michigan tried to break the score with two runners on base, but redshirt senior shortstop Skylar Wallace stretched out to keep the Gators alive with a ground ball out.
Erickson notched her first hit as a Gator on a single to center field in the bottom of the sixth. With two outs and runners on first and second, Michigan freshman right fielder Ella Stephenson preserved the scoreless tie with an impressive play down the right line.
Florida and Michigan retired the side in the seventh inning and would play three extra innings.
Wolverines sophomore shortstop Avery Fantucci started the eighth inning by moving a runner to third on a sacrifice bunt. Rothrock followed with a strikeout, and Otis made a sliding catch in left to strand the runner at third.
Michigan took the lead twice with a run in the ninth and 10th. They scored the first run on a throwing error by the Gators. However, Florida escaped the inning as Williams converted a double play.
Freshman right-handed pitcher Ava Brown tied the game for the Gators with a single up the middle, bringing Otis home in the ninth.
Wolverines freshman Lexi Dellamonica scored the winning run for Michigan. She scored on an unassisted groundout.
Florida was unable to tie the game in the 10th, suffering its first loss of the season.
The Gators' record is now 13-11 against Michigan.
Illinois State Blow Out
Florida took the initial lead right from the start. Wallace scored Falby with an RBI single to put the first run on the board.
Illinois State was scoreless against the Gators' defense as Brown was in control. She delivered four flyouts and four groundouts in three innings.
In the top of the second, Kowalewski blasted her first collegiate home run over the left-center field wall. Then, Falby roped a double to left center field which brought senior outfielder Katie Kistler home.
The Gators had a strong third inning, scoring six runs. Junior first baseman Reagan Walsh opened the inning with a home run over the left field fence.
Brown followed with a double in the right-center field gap and prompted a pitching change for the Redbirds. With only one out, Falby cleared the bases with a three-run double down the left-field line. Falby and Wallace then scored on RBIs, keeping the Gators ahead 9-0.
In the top of the fourth, Florida built a double-digit lead as senior Avery Goelz scored on a throwing error. Illinois delivered a one-out single, but freshman pitcher Olivia Miller escaped the inning without scoring any runs.
Otis extended the lead in the top of the fifth with a monster home run in right-center field. Freshman Cassidy McLellan came in as a pinch-hitter and earned her first RBI as a Gator with an infield single.
With one out and a runner on first, graduate transfer Mackenzie Wooten subbed in to close out the fifth inning. The Redbirds managed to score one run, but that’s all they would get across the plate.
Florida will continue the USF-Rawlings Invitational on Sunday with another doubleheader. UF faces Bethune Cookman at noon and USF at 2 p.m.
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.