For the second time in less than 24 hours at the Women's College World Series, Florida was victimized by a masterful pitching performance as fifth-seeded UCLA ended 14th-seeded UF's season in Sunday's elimination game, 8-0, at USA Softball Hall of Fame Stadium in Oklahoma City.
This time, it was UCLA's fourth-year junior Holly Acevedo who silenced the Florida bats. She threw six innings of two-hit ball in the mercy-rule victory,
Twenty hours earlier, it was Oklahoma State's Holly Maxwell who fired a three-hit, 2-0 shutout win that dropped the Gators into the loser's bracket.
Acevedo, the Bruins' No. 2 pitcher (behind second-team All American and Pac-12 Pitcher of the Year Megan Faraimo) proved even more difficult for the UF offense to solve. Unlike Thursday, when she was touched up for five hits and three runs in just 2.2 innings in a 7-2 first-round loss to unseeded Texas, Acevedo had her way against the Gators, who managed just a leadoff single by Charla Echols in the second and infield single by Cheyenne Lindsey in the fifth -- and only once got a runner as far as third.
The Bruins grabbed a 1-0 lead in the second against Gators starter Elizabeth Hightower when No. 9 hitter, Kelli Godwin, with runners at first and second, tapped a two-out RBI single to right field.
UF flirted with more trouble in third, got out of it, only to have things start to unravel in the fourth. UCLA got just one hit in the inning, but a leadoff walk, passed ball, run-scoring error by shortstop Skylar Wallace and two-run infield single in the second-base hole by Briana Perez gave Acevedo, who came in with 1.34 ERA, all the support she needed.
The score held until the sixth when UCLA tagged on four more runs against reliever Natalie Lugo, including a bases-loaded, two-run single by Maya Brady that made the score 6-0. Two batters later, the bases were loaded for Savannah Pola, who ended the game via the mercy rule with a double into the right field gap.
UF left fielder Katie Kistler robs UCLA's Alyssa Garcia of a home run in the second inning.
PLAY OF THE GAME: In the bottom of the second, with UCLA up 1-0, Bruin Alyssa Garcia skied a ball high into left field that the breeze carried (and carried some more) to what looked like home run territory. But UF left fielder Katie Kistler retreated to the warning track, hopped at the wall and plucked the ball from over the fence line to rob Garcia of a two-run shot. Tune into Sports Center later and check it out. It'll be a "Top 10," for sure.
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Acevedo improved to 21-2 and lowered her ERA to 1.22. She only struck two, but walked one and was never threatened, limiting the heart of of the UF order (Kendra Falby, Hannah Adams, Wallace, Echols and Reagan Walsh, hitting 1-through-5) to a 1-for-12 afternoon.
STAGGERING STATISTIC: The Gators were shut out twice in a WCWS for the first time in program history (11 trips).
The offseason. Florida (49-19) won one of three games here at OKC, which was better than the Gators' two-and-out showing last time they were here in 2019. UF, remember, finished fifth in the Southeastern Conference, but ended up being the lone league team to reach the WCWS Series -- the team's 11th appearance here in the last 14 seasons -- and did it for the first time in program history by winning a Super Regional on the road. In the meantime, tip a hat to Adams, Lugo and Lindsey, each of whom played their final three games for the Gators.