GAINESVILLE, Fla. - The No. 5-seed Florida softball team trounced No. 4-seed Kentucky with a 9-3 victory Thursday evening in the quarterfinal round of the SEC Softball Tournament at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium.
The Gators (43-15) exploded for six runs in the first two innings of play to take the victory over the Wildcats (35-17). Freshman Kendra Falby led the charge yet again with a leadoff single during the first inning of play.
The speedster swiped her 35th bag of the season to move into scoring position, which was then followed up by back-to-back walks on just nine pitches drawn by redshirt-junior Skylar Wallace and senior Charla Echols to load the bases.
Senior Cheyenne Lindsey plated Falby for the first run of the game with the Gators third consecutive walk of the inning. Kentucky then went to the bullpen to replace Tatum Spangler (9-2) with Miranda Stoddard.
Stoddard stood in the circle to face freshman Reagan Walsh with the bases loaded and one out. Walsh, a Redondo Beach, Calif. native, took three pitches from Stoddard then bounced a chopper over the third baseman's head down the left field line to score Wallace and Echols and extend the Gators lead out to 3-0.
Kentucky struck back with a two-run home run that closed down the lead to 3-2 in the home half of the first inning of play off Florida starting pitcher Elizabeth Hightower (16-7), but right-hander settled in to retire the side with no further damage in the frame.
Florida absorbed the blow and took it in stride. With the top of the order due back up to the plate in the second inning, the Orange & Blue struck for three more runs to extend the lead back out to 6-2. Falby again was the catalyst as she produced her second hit in as many at-bats and was followed up with another pair of walks drawn this time by fifth year graduate Hannah Adams and Wallace to load the bases.
However, this time Echols was at the plate with the bases loaded. The Newnan, Ga. native wasted no time to push the Gators lead out even further as she blasted a ground-rule double over the right field wall to score Falby and Adams.
Reagan Wash notched her third RBI later in the frame as she sent an RBI single out to left field that scored Wallace.
The Wildcats only was able to produce one more run in the game via a solo home run in the bottom of the second as Hightower went on to finish the game with 4 1/3 innings pitched and five hits allowed before she gave way to Rylee Trlicek.
Trlicek closed out the final 2 2/3 innings and only allowed two hits and a walk en route to her fourth save of the season.
The Gators offense continued to remain electric and posted three more runs before the conclusion of the contest. In the sixth inning, Falby notched her third hit of the game to tie her career-high for her first collegiate season to put a runner on for Adams.
Adams ripped her ninth double of the season to plate Falby for the third time, but a snap throw behind Adams at second went wild and allowed the Hoschton, Ga. native to race home.
Wallace capped the scoring with her sixth home run of the season with a solo shot to straightaway center field.
- The Gators are now 36-28 all-time in the SEC Tournament and 27-10 under head coach Tim Walton.
- Walton's .730-win percentage in the SEC Tournament is the highest among active head coaches.
- Freshman Kendra Falby went 3-for-5 at the plate with three runs scored and a stolen base.
- The three hits and three runs scored tied her career-highs.
- Tonight's effort was also Falby's 24th multi-hit game of the season
- Freshman Reagan Walsh tied her career-high for hits with a 3-for-4 performance.
- Senior Charla Echols and Walsh tallied multi-RBI games in tonight's win. It's the 13th multi-RBI game of the year for Echols and seventh for Walsh.
#17 Skylar Wallace, Redshirt-Junior, Infield
On hosting the SEC Tournament... "Having our fans and getting to play in front of Gator Nation and having that advantage is huge. To have your crowd get after it and just support you one through seven innings is awesome and gives you electricity in the dugout.
On having Hannah Adams back... "I love Hannah, she's my girl. She is my teammate, my ride or die. I've known her for years, so it's just fun to have her there and just bounce (ideas) off each other. What we're thinking. What we're doing. What we're seeing and just play the game. I mean, just keeping it super simple, but having fun with it."
#15 Reagan Walsh, Freshman, Infield
On what was working for you tonight... "I was just looking for a pitch over the plate to attack and getting (my foot) down on time and just trusting what I've been taught by Coach (Tim) Walton and Coach (Aric) Thomas and Amanda Lorenz.