Each competing against the Alabama Crimson Tide in Gainesville, FL over the weekend, the Florida Gators baseball and softball teams combined to defeat their opponent five of six times – all in exciting fashion. No. 5/5 Florida baseball outscored Alabama 18-3 over a three-day span, while No. 8/9 Gators softball won back-to-back games against the Crimson Tide after being shutout in the series opener.
Coming off a tough road loss to Central Florida where head coach Kevin O’Sullivan emptied the bullpen, Florida upended Alabama 7-0 in the first game of the weekend series on Friday. Sophomore right-handed pitcher Hudson Randall (7-1) continued to pitch with confidence, scattering four hits in 6.1 innings for the victory. After manufacturing a single run in the third inning, the Gators rallied to score a total of six in three consecutive innings. Junior first baseman Preston Tucker (1-5, HR, 3 RBI, R) and senior second baseman Josh Adams (1-4, HR, 3 RBI, R) hit a pair of homers, while sophomore shortstop Nolan Fontana (3-5, RBI) couldn’t be kept off the bases. Florida amassed 14 hits in the game and saw seven different players cross the plate.
Sophomore left-handed pitcher Brian Johnson (6-1) got the call for the Gators on Saturday and, after allowing a single run in the first and solo shot in the top of the second, held the Crimson Tide scoreless for his final three innings to pick up the win. Junior RHP Greg Larson, sophomore LHP Steven Rodriguez and freshman RHP Keenan Kish combined to strike out six over the final four innings of the contest to solidify anther victory for Florida. The offense did their part to make Johnson feel comfortable early, rallying for pairs of runs in their first two frames to negate Alabama’s production. Sophomore catcher Mike Zunino (2-4, HR, 4 RBI, 2 R) and junior pinch hitter Ben McMahan (1-1, HR, RBI, R) each hit homers and Adams (1-3, 2 RBI) continued his hot streak at the plate.
With the three victories, the Gators have now defeated the Crimson Tide in eight of their last 10 meetings and can look ahead to a home series against Ole Miss next weekend.
Still fighting her way back from an arm injury, senior ace RHP Stephanie Brombacher (15-1) drew the start Friday but coughed up two runs (one earned) after tossing three shutout innings for her first loss of the season. Freshman RHP Hannah Rogers, who had been handling the pitching duties in Brombacher’s stead, was roughed up in her four innings as well, striking out six but allowing three earned runs on three hits and three walks. Alabama starter Kelsi Dunne (21-2) looked strong in the effort, limiting Florida to only three hits in seven innings while striking out six.
Not allowing themselves to get down after such a tough loss, the Gators responded in a big way in the next two games, ending both with exciting finishes. Senior LF Kelsey Bruder, who has been nearly unstoppable at the plate recently, hit a walk-off three-run home run on Saturday followed by a walk-off infield single on Sunday (in extra innings) to send her team to two victories.
Brombacher got the call again Saturday, pitching 6.1 innings and striking out four but also allowing four earned runs. The Gators were faced with a 2-0 deficit early but rallied with back-to-back homers by senior 1B Megan Bush (1-2, HR, 2 RBI, R) and senior catcher Tiffany DeFelice (1-2, HR, RBI, R) in the fourth inning to take a 3-2 lead. Brombacher allowed a solo shot in the fifth to tie the game and gave up a two-run bomb in the seventh to put the Crimson Tide ahead 5-3 before Rogers came in to get the final two outs. Florida benefited with a lead-off walk in the bottom of the inning, and junior center fielder Michelle Moultrie (1-2, R, 2 BB) followed with a single through the right side to put the game-winning run at the plate. With one out, Bruder (2-4, HR, 3 RBI, R) hammered the first pitch she saw to pick up the win (see video below).
Bruder’s weekend heroics were not done, however, as she came through in the clutch once again on Sunday. Rogers and Dunne each pitched fantastic games on the day, holding shutouts through regulation. A fielding error in the top of the eighth allowed two Alabama batters to score, but Florida rallied to tack on two runs (including a RBI by Bruder) in the bottom of the inning to keep the game going. After Rogers (25-5) retired the side one-two-three in the top of the ninth to complete the longest outing of her career, Bruder (2-5, 2 RBI) found herself back at the plate with the winning run in scoring position. On a 1-0 count, she smacked a single to second base to score freshman SS Cheyenne Coyle (1-4, R) from third and give the Gators (40-8, 15-7 SEC) an impressive extra innings victory over the Crimson Tide (42-7, 16-6 SEC).
Florida will get a week of rest before jumping on the road to face South Carolina in a three-game weekend series. The Gators will then play four-straight home games to end the regular season the following week.