GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Alabama opened its weekend series against the top-ranked Florida Gators with a 2-1 win Friday night. The loss is just the second this year for the Gators and the first at home.
Alabama (30-6, 4-3 SEC) needed just two runs to dispatch Florida (33-2, 8-2 SEC) in a pitcher’s duel, with both of the Crimson Tide’s runs coming off the bat of Sydney Booker, who went 1-3 with an RBI fielder’s choice and an RBI double. Chandler Dare went 2-4 batting second, while six other Tide batters earned a hit in the win.
Alabama starter Sydney Littlejohn (13-2) earned her third SEC win of the season, throwing 6.1 innings with one run on five hits while Alexis Osorio secured the final two outs in the seventh for her fourth save of the season. Florida starter Aleshia Ocasio threw 4.1 innings with one run allowed on six hits while reliever Delanie Gourley (10-1) took the loss in the final 2.2 innings.
Reagan Dykes led off the top of the second with a walk and was sacrificed into scoring position on a bunt by Peyton Grantham. Andrea Hawkins followed with an infield single just shy of the pitcher’s circle to put runners at the corners with one out in the half-inning. Booker dropped a ball into shallow center to drive in Dykes from third, but a force out at second took the hit away giving her the RBI fielder’s choice as Alabama moved up 1-0.
Florida went hitless over the first three innings until Kelsey Stewart led off the bottom of the fourth with a single up the middle. Nicole DeWitt looked to drop a single into shallow left in the next at-bat but Booker ranged back from short and made a fantastic diving catch, firing back to first base afterwards to double up Stewart on the play. Kirsti Merritt followed with a solo homer to right center, tying the game up at 1-1 with two out. A walk, base hit and a hit-by-pitch kept the inning going for Florida but a ground ball ended the inning to keep the score tied through four innings.
An infield hit, sacrifice bunt and another base hit to lead off the top of the fifth put runners at the corners with one out for Alabama. That ended Ocasio’s outing in the circle as Florida turned to sophomore left-hander Delanie Gourley, who got the Gators out of the jam with a strikeout and a groundout to keep the game tied at 1-1.
With a runner at first and two out in the top of the sixth, Booker pulled a double down the left field line and the speedy Hawkins scored all the way from first, giving Alabama a 2-1 lead. A fielding error in the next at-bat extended the inning, but a groundout ended it with the Tide now on top by one.
With one out in the bottom of the sixth, Kallie Case looked to make a spectacular catch in left field but the umpire called the ball down for a base hit. Florida would eventually put two in scoring position in the half-inning, but a fly ball at the warning track in right field would go down as the final out and preserve the Tide’s 2-1 lead.
Alabama couldn’t add to its lead in the top of the seventh and Florida grabbed a one-out single in the bottom-half of the inning as Alabama turned to Osorio in the save situation. A force out at second went for out number two and a strikeout ended it.