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Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Walsh’s clutch home-run leads Florida to game one victory over LSU

Florida defeated LSU 4-2

Florida softball freshman right-handed pitcher Keagan Rothrock pitches the ball in the Gators' loss to Oklahoma State on Monday, February 19, 2024.
Florida softball freshman right-handed pitcher Keagan Rothrock pitches the ball in the Gators' loss to Oklahoma State on Monday, February 19, 2024.

Florida junior designated player Reagan Walsh has been a constant presence in the Gators lineup this season, and that was even more of the case on Saturday evening.

With the score tied at 1-all in the bottom of the sixth inning, Walsh stepped up to the plate with runners on second and third and two outs.

With the count 1-2, Walsh smashed a three-run shot into left that put Florida up 4-1.

Walsh’s bomb was ultimately the decider in game one of the No. 10 Gators (33-5, 8-2 SEC) series against No. 5/7 LSU (30-5, 8-5 SEC), as Florida prevailed 4-2.

Both sides put their aces in the circle for this massive conference showdown. For the Tigers, it was sophomore Sydney Berzon, while the Gators called on their freshman phenom, right hander Keagan Rothrock.

And with two of the country's best taking the mound, a true pitchers battle ensued.

The first five innings of the game were scoreless on both sides, and only featured two hits, both by Florida: a leadoff double by Florida junior center fielder Kendra Falby, and a single in the bottom of the fifth by Walsh.

Florida senior shortstop Skylar Wallace then made a fantastic leaping grab in the top of the third inning on a liner by LSU senior center fielder Ciara Briggs, which kept the Tigers hitless.

Rothrock, who held the Tigers hitless through six and a quarter innings, did not let the pressure get to her.

“Stuff like no-hitters never cross my mind,” Rothrock said. “I was just trying to work every batter and earn the win.”

Other than those couple of chances, both sides struggled to get anything going offensively in the first five frames.

That all changed in the sixth inning, both sides began to get it going at the plate.

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Briggs and senior shortstop Taylor Pleasants both singled, and then LSU senior first baseman Raeleen Gutierrez sent a dribbler down the first base path which Rockroth bobbled, allowing Briggs to score the game’s first run.

With two runners on base, Falby showcased her defensive prowess, making a leaping catch while hitting the warning track wall to send the Gators back to the plate.

“It gives me a little more confidence every day knowing that they're behind me,” Rothrockk said. “When I see a ball go up, I just know they have it.”

Falby  led off the bottom of the sixth with a Florida single, before Wallace followed up with another single to put two Gators on base with zero outs.

Florida junior left fielder Korbe Otis delivered at the plate with an RBI single that drove in Falby and evened up the score at 1-all.

Walsh  delivered her three-run shot, which was her team-high 13th home run of the season.

For Walsh, it was a near picture-perfect moment.

“It’s just one of the best feelings a hitter can have,” Walsh said. “I just told myself I’m gonna drive it to the gap and win it for us.”

The Tigers attempted to bridge the gap in the top of the seventh, as LSU senior left fielder Ali Newland hit an RBI single that scored sophomore outfielder Maia Townsend.

However, Rothrock stayed strong, striking out Briggs looking to earn the 110-pitch complete game victory.

The win was extra-special as it was Florida’s annual Yellow Game, in which it raises awareness for pediatric cancer in honor of honorary team member Heather Braswell.

“It’s truly a blessing to play for a program that cherishes these types of things,” Walsh said.

Florida will now face the Tigers in Game 2 of its series Sunday at 2 p.m. at the Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium.

Contact Max Bernstein at mbernstein@alligator.org. Follow him on X @maxbernstein23.




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