KISSIMMEE, Fla. – It took extra innings to make it final but a run in the eighth inning on a wild pitch in between hit batters lifted the top-ranked Florida Gators past No. 4 Oregon, 2-1, Friday evening at the Diamond 9 Citrus Classic. Karissa Hovinga pitched five strong innings of six hit ball, giving up just one earned run, but it was the ace, Cheridan Hawkins, who picked up the loss in relief.
Hawkins moved to 8-2 on the year after picking up the loss. The sophomore pitched three innings in relief, giving up one unearned run while striking out five batters and walked one. The loss also snapped Oregon’s (15-2) 15-game winning streak, the longest under head coach Mike White.
“I thought Karissa pitched her heart out,” White said. “She gave us an opportunity to win the game by shutting them down. We didn’t capitalize on our opportunities, especially in the first inning with a runner at third with only one out. Overall, it was a good performance by our pitching staff and defense. Forcing a split between two Southeastern Conference (SEC) teams is pretty good.”
With the game headed into extra innings and the international tiebreaker in affect, Florida’s Kirsti Merritt laid down a sac-bunt to advance Kelsey Stewart to third followed by walk to Lauren Haeger. After a couple offensive substitutions for Florida (17-0) on the base paths, the Gators were able to steal second before Hawkins hit her first pitcher to load the bases. With the bases loaded, the southpaw threw a wild pitch that Janelle Lindvall couldn’t get a glove on to score the eventual winning run.
Hawkins then hit another batter before getting Stephanie Tofft to line out to Courtney Ceo who was playing for the bunt. Taylor Fuller then pinched-hit for Aubree Munro and chased a pitch outside the zone to end the inning.
The Ducks had the top of their lineup up to bat to start the bottom of the eighth with Nikki Udria at second due to the international tiebreaker rule but wasn’t able to capitalize. Janie Takeda advanced Udria to third on a sac-bunt down the first-base line before Ceo struck out looking at a pitch that painted the outside corner to make it two outs. After working a 3-0 count, Alexa Peterson flew out to left to end the game, 2-1 in favor of Florida.
Oregon struck first in the bottom of the third thanks to Udria who singled and then moved to second on a single from Ceo. Munro tried to catch Udria after a pitch at second but threw the ball deep into center and scored the freshman to put the Ducks up 1-0.
Haeger gave Florida the equalizing run at the very next Gator at bat, roping a solo homer over the left center wall on a 0-1 count. Hovinga gave up two more hits that inning before getting Katie Medina to strike out before Hawkins took over in the circle in the sixth inning.
Hawkins rang up five of her first six batters in relief of Hovinga before giving up the game-winning run in the eighth to Florida.
Oregon opens its double-header on Saturday with Bradley at 10:15 a.m. (PST) before closing out the day with Maryland at 2:45 p.m. (PST).