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Gators softball clobbers South Alabama

Fifth-year senior Skylar Wallace continued her torrid offensive streak with an inside-the-park home run and four RBI while senior Katie Kistler had a bases-clearing double and freshman pitcher Keagan Rothrock won for the sixth time in as many starts as the fourth-seeded Gators run-ruled South Alabama 9-1 during Saturday’s weather-delayed NCAA Gainesville Regional.

“Overall, we just grinded it out,” Florida coach Tim Walton said. “I was really happy with the way we transitioned from one pitcher to the other because they’re completely different and teams have struggled with their differences and we did a good job. I think the prep was really good, and give our players really a ton of credit for being able to find a way to continue to grind that anything out.”

In winning a 10th straight, UF secured its place in Sunday’s championship round thanks to a six-run fifth inning that ended two innings early a game that was delayed two hours, 45 minutes due to lightning in the area.

The Gators had eight hits, with five of them (and five runs) coming in the top four spots of the order.

Wallace went 2-for-2, with each of her knocks accounting for two RBI.

Rothrock (28-6) went five innings, gave up three hits and the one run.

The Jaguars actually led 1-0 in the first inning when Mackenzie Brasher opened the game with a single, advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt and scored on Gabby Stagner’s hard liner to left.

USA’s two hits in the first inning equaled the two Rothrock gave up in 6.1 innings of Friday’s opening-round 6-0 shutout of Florida Gulf Coast.

Jaguars pitcher Olivia Lackie faced the first six UF batters without allowing a hit, but freshman Ava Brown broke the seal by leading off the home third with a solo homer over the right-field wall at Pressly Stadium to make it 1-1.

Brown’s 13th of the season, tying her for the second-most on the team, was her first in 28 home games this season.

The next batter, Ariel Kowalewski, grounded to first, after which officials halted the game due to the threatening weather.

When play resumed nearly three hours later, it took an inning for the Gators to begin their onslaught, with Korbe Otis starting things with a leadoff double in the fourth, followed by Wallace’s inside-the-park homer — her 14th home run of the season and fourth in five postseason games — pushing the Gators ahead 3-1 after four.

In the fifth, Mia Williams reached on a fielder’s choice, Kendra Falby stroked a double and Otis walked to load the bases and bring Wallace to the plate.

The UF shortstop ripped a single to center, plating two more runs for a 5-1 lead.

Three batters later, and with three runners on, Kistler lashed her double to the right-center gap, clearing the bases and pushing the Gators up 8-1.

After Brown walked, Kowalewski ended the game with a RBI single to right that scored Kistler and gave UF its eight-run run-rule margin.

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