Catcher Kendyl Lindaman dug into the batter’s box with the game on the line: top of the seventh, bases loaded, two outs and the Florida softball team trailing by a run.
It had not been the best game for the junior, as she was hitless in three at-bats.
But that changed with one swing of the bat.
Lindaman crushed LSU pitcher Shelbi Sunseri’s 1-1 offering deep to center field. LSU center fielder Aliyah Andrews ran to the fence and leaped to try to catch the ball, but she could only watch the ball fly out of the park for a grand slam to make it 4-1, Florida.
The No. 9 Tigers’ comeback bid stopped a run short in the bottom of the inning, and the No. 7 Gators (24-4, 2-2 SEC) took the first game of the series 4-3.
The fireworks in the seventh inning were set up by a pitchers’ duel between Kelly Barnhill and Sunseri. Second baseman Hannah Adams’ bunt single in the top of the first was the game’s only hit until the bottom of the fifth inning, and there were only six in the game.
Barnhill pitched all seven innings for the Gators and earned her 15th win of the season. She struck out eight batters, walked two, gave up three hits and three earned runs.
LSU (22-6, 2-2 SEC) finally scored the game’s first run in the bottom of the fifth inning. Shortstop Amber Serrett lined a hit that bounced off the tip of left fielder Jaimie Hoover’s glove for a double and broke up Barnhill’s no-hit bid.
LSU left fielder Savannah Stewart drove her home on an RBI triple when another fly ball bounced off the glove of a UF outfielder after Lily Mann failed to secure an over-the-shoulder catch.
And the game stayed at 1-0 until the top of the seventh inning.
Sophia Reynoso’s fly ball to right was just a few feet short of clearing the fence and was instead the first out of the inning. Hoover drew a walk, and third baseman Jordan Matthews laced a single to right field to keep the Gators alive.
Matthews was out at second on a grounder hit by outfielder Jade Caraway, but the Gators still had runners at the corners with two outs to bring up first baseman Amanda Lorenz.
Sunseri opted to intentionally walk the senior and pitch to Lindaman instead.
Lindaman looked at the first two pitches delivered by Sunseri before belting the grand slam to give the Gators the 4-1 lead.
The Tigers didn’t quit, even as fans started to leave Tiger Park.
Right fielder Elyse Thornhill drew a walk, and Serrett made Barnhill pay again, delivering a two-run bomb to left field to reduce the Florida lead to one.
Barnhill struck out her eighth batter of the game and forced two ground outs after that to preserve the lead
Follow Brendan Farrell on Twitter Bfarrell727 and contact him at [email protected].