Arkansas could not overcome relentless rebounding
Connecticut’s two missed three-pointers at the outset warned the Arkansas Razorbacks their …
Arkansas' Danielle Gibson celebrates after reaching second base during the Razorbacks' game against Florida at the SEC softball tournament in Gainesville, Fla., on May 13, 2022.
Arkansas finally got to the Florida defense, scoring three unearned runs in the fourth inning on its way to a 4-1 victory Friday night in the SEC softball tournament semifinals at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium in Gainesville, Fla.
The Gators (43-16) were dynamic in the field in the early going, but things fell apart for the tournament hosts in the fourth as Arkansas (43-9) rattled Florida reliever Rylee Trlicek, whose defense allowed the fourth-ranked Razorbacks to score all four of their runs in advancing to today’s tournament championship game against Missouri.
“We got some lucky breaks,” Arkansas coach Courtney Deifel said. “We were able to finish it out with a great win.”
With Florida leading 1-0, Arkansas loaded the bases on a pair of singles and a walk off Florida freshman Lexie Delbrey. Trlicek was summoned from the bullpen and quickly got Kacie Hoffman to force out Danielle Gibson at home on a grounder back to the mound for the first out.
That was the best Trlicek could offer on the next three plays.
Trlicek fielded a grounder by Audrie LaValley and threw past catcher Sam Roe, which allowed Hannah Gammill and Linnie Malkin to score, giving Arkansas a 2-1 lead.
Marlene Friedman then hit a soft tapper near the mound on which Trlicek hesitated to field, allowing Hoffman to score on an infield single. With runners on first and third, KB Sides tapped back to Trlicek, who instead of throwing home to catch LaValley or to second to start a double play, threw to first to retire Sides.
LaValley scored to make it a 4-1 game.
“I thought we played well,” said Florida Coach Tim Walton. “We hit the ball well. … Were making the plays in the field, but we beat ourself. I hate losing. I hate beating ourselves. It stinks.”
Arkansas starter Chenise Delce (16-2), who was named the SEC pitcher of the year on Friday, allowed a first-inning run but was stellar in the latter innings. She sent the Gators down in order in the fifth, sixth and seventh innings after allowing a pair of hits in the fourth, but she struck out Avery Goelz with runners on first and second to begin a run of 10 consecutive outs.
She struck out Goelz to end the game for her seventh strikeout.
“Coming in I knew I would have to take it one pitch at a time and focus on [hitting my] spots,” Delce said in a postgame interview with ESPN2. “When you know that you have bats behind you, you just go out and do your best.”
Florida’s first-inning run came on a sacrifice fly by Charla Echols following a double by Kendra Falby and an infield single by Hannah Adams to open the game. Delce got a pop out to short before Echols flied out deep to center field to score Falby.
“I thought Chenise was exceptional,” Deifel said. “Our defense played really well. It was huge keeping them to one there.”
Delbrey, who was starting her first game of the tournament, then survived a two-on, no-out threat by Arkansas in the bottom half.
Sides and Hannah McEwen opened the Arkansas first with walks. Delbrey struck out Taylor Ellsworth looking for the first out. Gibson lined out to left for the second, and Delbrey (13-3) got out of the jam unscathed by striking out Gammill to end the threat.
Arkansas improved to 4-0 this season against Florida. The Razorbacks swept a three-game series at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium on April 22-24.
Arkansas will play Missouri in today’s championship game at 4 p.m. Central. The No. 7-seeded Tigers (36-19) survived a 2 1/2-hour weather delay to defeat third-seed Tennessee 3-0 in the Friday's first semifinal.
The Razorbacks and Tigers are both seeking their first SEC Tournament championship.
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