Mississippi State University (15-11) hosted the University of Florida (21-2) at Nusz Park in Starkville, Mississippi, on Friday for a weekend softball series, where the Gators swept the Bulldogs with three wins.
Friday's game was a low scoring affair. Florida had a chance to take the lead very early in the first inning when two batters hit singles and one batter walked. With the bases loaded MSU proceeded to throw two runners out and Annie Willis, the senior pitcher from Huntsville, Alabama, got her first strikeout of the matchup to keep the inning scoreless. Willis expanded on that important first inning and said she knew her team was ready and prepared to get the stops they needed.
"Honestly, I just trusted the defense behind me," Willis shared. "We've been working all week, honestly, on it, and that was the calmest I've felt our team as a whole. I just trusted my pitches. I trusted Mia (Davidson) behind the plate. I trusted Coach Josh (Johnson's) calls, and we just worked together as a team to get it done."
Mostly dominated by defense from both teams, the game was scoreless until the fourth inning when Florida's Kinsey Goelz hit a solo home run over the wall in left field, giving the Gators the lead. MSU would work its way into opportunities to score some runs, but Florida's defense kept the Bulldogs from touching home plate. The Bulldogs' defense stood strong as well and shined by keeping the No.5 Florida team from scoring another run. One play by Florida looked sure to score, but a double play stopped a score when MSU's senior pitcher Emily Williams from Carrollton, Georgia, struck out a batter. Senior catcher Mia Davidson then fired the ball to second base, catching the runner stealing for an incredible double play.
Davidson, the Hillsborough, North Carolina, native, said her team executed the play perfectly and gave props to the second baseman.
"I honestly didn't see the runner going until the last second," Davidson said. "I knew there was a fast runner on, so I was like, 'If (Emily Williams) does a change up, just be ready for anything.' She went and she threw it. Madi (Kennedy) made a great tag on it, and it was just bang-bang. It was just a great setup.
Florida took game one with a 1-0 victory over MSU, who ended the game with zero runs off six hits.
Saturday's matchup ended in an offensive explosion for Florida when they kept MSU scoreless in an 10-0 defeat. Florida got out to an early lead after scoring one run in the first inning and would go on to score nine runs on seven hits in the seventh inning, helped by two errors from MSU. Head Coach Samantha Ricketts said her team's mistakes mainly came from communication errors and trust.
"You never want to see that," Ricketts said. "Again, I think that's more part of the mentality and speeding yourselves up and less about the physical errors," Ricketts said. "A lot of them came down to communication and really just trusting yourself and trusting your teammates around you to make the plays, and we did not do that very well today."
Saturday was not only a day for collegiate softball competition but also a day for the remembrance of Alex Wilcox, a member of the 2018 MSU softball team who inspired the nation when she courageously battled ovarian cancer in a fight that would ultimately take her life. Every one of the 13 schools in the Southeastern Conference wore teal or teal accents during their respective softball games to promote ovarian cancer awareness and show the impact Wilcox had on the softball community.
The weekend series came to a close on Sunday where Florida took a strong lead early and ended the game in five innings, defeating MSU 8-0. In the second inning, Florida's Goelz once again hit a home run to left field, this time scoring two runs as a runner was on third base. MSU just could not find the offense they needed to get back into the game and in the fifth inning, Florida expanded their lead by adding on six runs.
That lead would prove insurmountable for MSU, and any window of opportunity was shut in the bottom of the fifth when junior outfielder Chloe Malau'ulu of Long Beach, California, flied out to center field. This gave Florida their third out of the inning and ended the game, leaving the Bulldogs scoreless through 24 innings.