On Saturday afternoon, while inclement weather in the Classic City caused the postponement of football practice and a baseball game, the third-ranked Georgia softball team took to the field in Gainesville to face second-ranked Florida. The Bulldogs, who beat the Gators on Friday, used a seven-run seventh stanza to turn a nailbiter into a blowout and take the series in the second outing.
The Orange and Blue drew first blood, however, when a leadoff walk and a pair of base hits loaded the bases with no one out in the bottom of the opening inning. A double play ball plated a run, but the Gators could manage no more. This allowed the Athenians to surge into the lead in the top of the third frame, thanks to a base on balls drawn by third baseman Alisa Goler, a two-run shot to left field by catcher Ashley Razey, another walk drawn by first baseman Kristyn Sandberg, and an RBI double off the bat of designated player Brittney Hubbard.
Florida responded in the home half of the canto, tying the contest on a leadoff single, an RBI double, a baserunner-advancing single, and a run-scoring fielder’s choice. The deadlock proved short-lived, as the Red and Black responded in the visitors’ half of the fourth frame with a single by left fielder Megan Wiggins, a walk by Goler, and a home run by right fielder Brianna Hesson, all with two outs away in the inning.
The Gators made the score 6-5 with a leadoff single and a two-run homer in the bottom of the fifth canto, and there the score remained at the outset of the seventh stanza. Hesson got the big inning going with a leadoff double down the left field line. Razey and Sandberg both walked to load the bases for Hubbard, and the Georgia designated player drew the four-pitch base on balls that forced home a run.
While another run-scoring walk was issued thereafter, the Bulldogs added more scores on their own, thanks to a sacrifice fly by center fielder Taylor Schlopy, a single by second baseman Ashley Pauly, and Goler’s three-run shot to right field, which broke the game open heading into the Gators’ last turn at the plate. Starter Morgan Montemayor had carded six strikeouts in as many innings to earn the win, but Alison Owen took over in the circle in the bottom of the final frame, then proceeded to extract two pop-ups and a foulout from the three batters she faced.
The heart of the order came through for the Red and Black, as fourth, fifth, and sixth hitters Alisa Goler, Brianna Hesson, and Ashley Razey between them went five for ten, batted in eight runs, and hit three home runs. The Athenians played error-free softball and matched exactly the Gators’ nine hits. In dramatic contrast to the Diamond Dogs’ tendency to get routed in the late innings of tight ballgames, the Georgia softball squad found itself in a three-all tie after a trio of cantos before going on a 10-2 tear in the final four frames.
After last weekend’s debacle, the Bulldogs needed a series like this one to confirm that their No. 1 ranking was no fluke. The Athenians will go for the sweep on Sunday.