College softball: No. 6 Alabama hands No. 1 Florida first shutout loss
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- With a series victory on the line in Sunday's rubber match between Alabama and Florida, the Crimson Tide came out on top with a 3-0 victory, handing the Gators its first shutout loss of the season.
Alabama (31-7, 5-4 SEC) is the first SEC team to win a series over Florida (34-3, 9-3 SEC) in over a calendar year and the first team to beat them twice all season. Behind solid pitching and defense from the Tide, the four runs scored by the Gators over the weekend's three games is their lowest total over a three-game stretch this season.
Tide starter Sydney Littlejohn (13-2) posted another stellar performance in the circle to earn her second win of the weekend, shutting out the potent Gator lineup and holding them to just two hits, moving to 5-0 in conference play. A pair of defensive miscues allowed the first two Alabama runs to cross the plate in the first inning and Sydney Booker added some insurance with an RBI double in the sixth. Florida starter Delanie Gourley (10-2) took the loss, throwing 5.1 innings, while Aleshia Ocasio pitched 1.2 relief innings behind her.
Alabama put pressure on the Florida defense early, as Haylie McCleney led off the game with an infield single and Chandler Dare followed with a sacrifice bunt attempt, but a fielding error allowed McCleney to score and Dare to advance all the way to third as the Tide took the early 1-0 lead. With one out in the inning, Leona Lafaele reached safely on a passed ball after a strikeout, which also allowed Dare to come home and make it 2-0.
Florida would strand three runners on base through the first five innings, as it remained a 2-0 game heading to the sixth. Rachel Bobo pinch-hit to lead off the sixth and was hit by a pitch before being sacrificed into scoring position by Reagan Dykes. The Gators then turned to Aleshia Ocasio in the circle and Booker welcomed her to the game with an RBI double off the wall in left field to stretch Alabama's lead to 3-0.
Alabama couldn't add to its lead in a very heated top of the seventh that included Florida head coach Tim Walton being ejected by home plate umpire Leah Bowen, as it remained a 3-0 game heading to the home half of the inning. Florida would get a baserunner on in the bottom-half of the inning but that was it as Alabama held on for the shutout victory.