Things looked pretty grim at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium as the Gators entered the bottom of the fifth, down 3-0 to the LSU Tigers.
But, everything changed in the home half of the inning when junior left fielder Amanda Lorenz stepped up to plate.
With the bases loaded, “Here we go Gators, here we go,” chants echoed around the diamond as Lorenz swung at a pitch from LSU’s Maribeth Gorsuch.
After her bat struck the ball, she watched with a careful eye as the yellow sphere made its way toward the wall in left center field. Then, all three Gators on base found their way to home plate, tying up the lead at 3-all.
Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium exploded. It helped the Gators reignite their spirits after being held scoreless for the previous 11 innings, including Saturday’s shutout home loss to the Tigers.
“It’s really fun when we have that much crowd engagement,” Lorenz said. “We just feel them with each pitch and it really makes a difference.”
Florida went on to clinch the series against LSU with a 5-3 victory Sunday afternoon in Gainesville, following a loss to the Tigers on Saturday.
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Much like Saturday’s contest, neither team scored any runs until the fifth inning with a constant back-and-forth between LSU pitcher Shelbi Sunseri and UF pitcher Kelly Barnhill.
Both aces kept their opposition’s offense to a minimum. Sunseri only allowed two hits and Barnhill held the Tigers to no hits for the first four innings. In a stretch during the first three innings, Sunseri didn’t allow a baserunner for nine consecutive at-bats.
Senior third baseman Nicole DeWitt finally broke the streak in the bottom of the fourth, sending a single to right field, but it wasn’t enough to help the Gators (44-8, 17-4 SEC) get on the board.
And it didn’t take long for the Tigers (37-13, 10-10 SEC) to take control of the game.
In the top of the fifth, LSU third baseman Shemiah Sanchez stepped up to into the batter’s box with a full count on the board and sent a home run to left field.
It was the first earned run scored against junior pitcher Kelly Barnhill in her career against the Tigers, as a sea of yellow jerseys gathered at home plate, giving LSU a 1-0 lead.
Then, it happened again.
With Sunseri already on first base after she sent a single to center field, catcher Michaela Schlattman followed suit and sent the Tigers’ second home run of the matchup toward left center field.
As the yellow sphere bounced off the middle of the scoreboard in centerfield, Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium fell silent as the Tigers took a 3-0 lead.
Barnhill answered back, striking out LSU’s Becca Schulte and ending the first half of the fifth inning.
The Gators’ offense kicked things off in the home half of the fifth when sophomore catcher Jordan Roberts sent a single just inside the left-field wall on the back side of the diamond.
After Sunseri walked sophomore shortstop Sophia Reynoso, Gorsuch took the circle in relief to try to stop the Gators’ offensive momentum.
But at the point the offensive burst couldn’t be stopped.
Gorsuch walked first baseman Hannah Adams, leaving the bases loaded with pinch runner Lily Mann on third and Reynoso on second.
Then, Lorenz approached the plate and smacked her 3-RBI triple.
“When you can bring your best hitter up in the best situation…it’s really impressive to be able to do that,” coach Tim Walton said.
The burst didn’t stop there as DeWitt singled to right field, allowing for Lorenz to safely stride to home plate and put the Gators up 4-3.
“She’s human,” Lorenz said about Barnhill’s performance in the fifth inning. “I was just happy that we could have her back like that because we should’ve had her back probably sooner.”
The Gators quickly ended the possibility of an LSU response with a one-two-three inning in the top of the sixth.
And Florida extended its lead in the home half.
Gorsuch walked Roberts, who exited at first base for pinch runner Katie Chronister.
As Reynoso took her own at-bat, Chronister quickly stole second. And with a the shortstop’s sacrifice bunt to Gorsuch, Chronister made her way to third.
Junior center fielder Alex Voss flied out to center field on the next series, but it sent the ball deep enough for Chronister to make the 60-foot sprint to home plate, securing a two-run lead for the Gators.
Barnhill closed out the home matchup striking out 14 batters on 110 tosses, logging her 24th win of the season.
“I think we got better this weekend,” Lorenz said. “We found a way to win when we got punched a little bit and found a way to come back and get a win for Kelly.”
The Gators will take the road to Columbia, Missouri, as they take on the Missouri Tigers in their last series of the regular season this weekend.