Though Gators managed to pull out a win on Saturday in the four-game series that spanned two days, glitches from Friday’s games seemed to trickle over.
“We weren’t executing yesterday and we weren’t executing early in the game,” said Cristina Byrne, the Gators’ head softball coach. “And then we started to execute and do the little things.”
The Tritons got off to a quick lead in the third inning with two runs batted in from catcher Charly Swanberg.
The Gators attempted to answer back in the bottom of the third, when outfielder Jordan Brenner hit a hard ball to the Tritons’ second-baseman Maria Sykes. Brenner managed to get to first base just in time, and advanced to second, as left fielder Heather Jensen hit an infield flyball to Tritons third-baseman Emily McQuaid.
“We want a hit! Gotta have a hit!” the Gators dugout sang, but each attempt to get back in the game was a failure, until outfielder Ashley Huff stepped up to the plate.
With players in position and one out, Huff hit a single, bouncing the ball over the head of Tritons first-baseman Nicole Spangler. As the ball traveled to right field, Huff sprinted for second base sending Brenner and Jensen home and to pick up a RBI double.
With one out, second baseman Kelsey Murakami hit a ground ball to third. Huff pump faked at third, Tritons third-baseman McQuaid lost control of the ball, which allowed Murakami to get to first base. Huff said it was a smart distraction.
“I knew it was a soft hit and I wasn’t going to score. So I was just trying to do anything I could to make Kelsey be safe,” she said.
With two outs and the bases loaded, first baseman Cara Spence swung out to close the inning, as the Tritons led 3-2.
The Tritons were unable to widen the gap in the seventh inning. In the bottom of the inning, Gators’ pinch-hitter Lucy Fernandez hit a single and changed the game.
“Our hitters really came up clutch,” Byrne said. “We threw in some pinch hitters in there. And our pinch hitters have really been huge for us.”
As soon as Fernandez’s ball went flying, runner Sarah Catania took off from third base. On her way to home plate, Catania ran right into Triton catcher Caitlin Brown causing her to drop the ball. In an effort to ensure the run, Catania crawled back to tag home plate and tie the game.
“I knew I was safe. I was just wondering if the umpire was going to call me out because I should have slid and I didn’t,” Catania said. “I just got really excited and ran as hard as I could because I knew that was going to be a really crucial run.”
With two on base, one out and a 3-3 tie game, Huff hit a ground ball to Triton pitcher Camille Gaito, who dropped the ball allowing Brenner to tag home plate. Gators took the lead, 4-3.
“We just never gave up,” head coach Byrne said. “They had a great pitcher on the mound in, (Gaito), and I give her credit. She won a world series for them last year and she came out throwing well.”
The Gator defense couldn’t pick up the win in the second game of the double header.
The team got off to an early lead with another RBI from Huff. But that momentum quickly changed in the top of the third with Becky Nakano pitching as the bases loaded. The Gators gave up seven runs in that inning alone.
At the top of the sixth inning the Tritons led the Gators 11-2.
Gator batters finally found rhythm in the bottom of the sixth when catcher Kylie Grabowski hit a single for an RBI, and the team would go on to earn four more runs.
With the bases loaded and Tritons pitcher Michelle Escamilla at the mound, the tables turned as pinch-hitters Jenna Robertson and Jenna Wermes tacked on two more runs. The comeback came too late for the Gators, who ended the game losing, 11-6.
“I think we’ve learned a lot over the last few weeks,” said Byrne. “There’s that expectation to win because they’re starting to work harder and they’re starting to feel it.”