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Monday, May 20, 2024

Florida softball crushes Kentucky in SEC home opener

The Gators recorded a grand slam and two home run hits to earn the 22nd run-rule victory

<p>The Florida Gators fell to Oklahoma State Saturday, now facing elimination against UCLA Sunday.</p>

The Florida Gators fell to Oklahoma State Saturday, now facing elimination against UCLA Sunday.

Dark clouds and rainy weather didn’t keep fans from showing support for the Florida Gators in its SEC home opener against the Kentucky Wildcats.

Despite trailing by one, Florida responded with an explosive inning in the bottom half of the third. The Gators recorded nine runs off seven hits.

With the bases loaded and no outs, junior infielder Reagan Walsh broke the game open, smashing a grand slam to left center field.

“It always feels good to hit a home run,” she said. “I was looking to drive the ball into the gap, but lucky enough she pitched the ball up.”

Fans wearing raincoats in the stands gave a standing ovation as the junior recorded her 11th home run of the season. 

And the Gators’ bats stayed hot, even with one out. Freshman third baseman Ariel Kowaleski blasted a home run over the right-center field wall. Then, freshman second baseman Mia Williams executed back-to-back solo home runs to put Florida in familiar run-rule territory. 

Junior left fielder Korbe Otis delivered her second RBI of the night to extend the lead to 10-2.

“It’s us against them,” Otis said. “We are a really talented team and as long as we keep working together like we have been, we’ll be rolling.”

The No.10 Gators (26-4, 2-1 SEC) defeated the No. 23 Kentucky Wildcats at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium Friday.

In the circle, freshman right-handed pitcher Keagan Rothrock started strong with a 1-2-3 first inning, getting three strikeouts.

Florida put the first run on the board in the bottom of the first inning. Redshirt senior shortstop Skylar Wallace ripped her 10th double of the year to the right field wall. 

Then, with two outs, Otis fought in the box to keep the Gators alive. On a full count, she delivered a single down the first base line to score Wallace. 

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“It’s all about trusting your process and what you do every day,” Otis said. “If you’re preparing well you should have no reason not to be confident.”

Otis said finding success as a transfer from Louisville has been a decision she never realized she needed to make, but is glad she did.

Kentucky picked up its first hit of the night with a single through the left side, but sophomore catcher Jocelyn Erickson erased the runner, catching her 10th baserunner stealing of the season. 

Rothrock rain into trouble in the third inning as the Wildcats offense threatened. Kentucky led off with a single up the middle and earned a walk. 

Kentucky sophomore infielder Lauryn Borzilleri then laid a bunt down. A fielding error on the throw to first caused the runner at second to score the first run of the game. 

Then, with bases loaded, the Wildcats delivered a single to left field to take the 2-1 lead. Rothrock bounced back with two strikeouts to end the frame. That’s all the Wildcats would earn on the scoreboard.

The third inning was the difference maker, and in the fifth inning, Rothrock recorded three strikeouts 1-2-3 to earn the run-rule victory.

Florida will meet Kentucky again Saturday at 3 p.m. at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium for the second game of the series.

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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