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Sunday, June 16, 2024

Florida softball shutout FGCU in Game 1 of NCAA Regionals

The Gators defeated the Eagles 6-0

Florida freshman Mia Williams at second base during the Gators' 6-0 win over Florida Gulf Coast on Friday, May 17, 2024.
Florida freshman Mia Williams at second base during the Gators' 6-0 win over Florida Gulf Coast on Friday, May 17, 2024.

Unexpected weather led to an opening game delay Friday afternoon, but that didn’t stop fans from filling the stands with positive energy as the Florida Gators faced Florida Gulf Coast in Game 1 of the NCAA Regionals.

Despite a scoreless two innings, Florida’s offense recorded four runs off three hits in the bottom of the sixth to blow a close game open.

UF redshirt senior shortstop Skylar Wallace led off with a one-out single to right field, and sophomore catcher Jocelyn Erickson drew a walk to force an FGCU pitching change. The two executed a double-steal on graduate student pitcher Ally Hulme’s first pitch. 

UF junior third baseman Reagan Walsh drove in Wallace via a sacrifice fly. With a pair of runners on base, senior pinch-hitter Avery Goelz smashed a single to left center field to cause a run for Florida off a fielding error.

“Nothing harder than doing what she did today to get those two RBIs off the bench,” head coach Tim Walton said. “When her numbers were called, I’m excited that she was ready to go. That’s a huge lift.”

Florida didn’t stop there. Freshman third baseman Ariel Kowalewski recorded a two-run single to right field and extended the Gators lead to 6-0.

The No. 4-seeded Florida Gators' (47-12) offensive production defeated the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles (37-20) 6-0 to take a Game 1 victory at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium, Friday afternoon.

UF freshman right-handed pitcher Keagan Rothrock dominated in the circle for Florida. She led off with back-to-back strikeouts and an infield popup to end the top of the first inning 1-2-3.

“[It was about] one, having a great defense behind me and two, just knowing that the stuff I have is good enough to beat everybody and having trust in that,” Rothrock said.

Rothrock carried her fiery start through the next six innings to keep the Eagles scoreless. Her momentum allowed just two hits and a hit by pitch.

“What she does doesn’t surprise me,” Walton said. “It’s really kind of how she’s trained herself to be this good, and I’m very happy she’s a Gator.”

Florida took a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the third inning. Freshman second baseman Mia Williams drew a hit by pitch and advanced to second via an infield single by junior center fielder Kendra Falby.

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With two outs, Wallace stepped up to the plate. The redshirt senior experienced a slug in April going 2-for-31 at the plate. But she’s bounced back and rocketed her batting average by 31 points over the last 10 games.

Wallace continued her come back performance Friday with a two-run double to the right field gap. Williams drove in from second, and Falby from first slid into home plate shouting with excitement. The fans rose to their feet and filled the stadium with cheers.

“I was not being myself, trying to be too big of this hero,” Wallace said. “I just had to play softball the way I know how to play and just do the little things correctly.”

FGCU freshman right-handed pitcher Allison Sparkman fought in the circle to keep the Gators scoreless through the next two innings. However, Florida’s offensive production in the bottom half of the sixth put the Gators ahead.

With one out in the top of the seventh inning, UF freshman right-handed pitcher Ava Brown subbed in to relieve Rothrock. She retired the next two batters and secured the win.

Next, Florida will face the winner of the Florida Atlantic (41-14) and South Alabama (32-18-1) matchup in Game 2 Saturday at 1 p.m. at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium. 

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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