Softball fights but falls to No. 5 Florida
Freshman Victoria Brown
Freshman Victoria Brown
Florida scored runs in two different spurts to down the Jacksonville University softball team, 11-3, Wednesday in the home opener at the JU Softball Complex.

After going down 1-0 in the third, the Gators (6-0) scored nine runs between the fourth and fifth innings to set up the win. Brianna Little scored four of the nine runs with a grand slam in the fifth for Florida.

The Dolphins (3-2) took their early lead on a solo home run from freshman Victoria Brown to start the third inning.

“They showed why they are one of the top five teams in the nation,” JU head coach Ali Higgs said. “We played well, but didn’t take advantage of our opportunities liked they did. We will take away the positives from tonight and use them this weekend for our tough home tourney.”

Hannah Rogers (3-0) earned the win in the circle for Florida after allowing three runs on seven hits, five walks and five strikeouts in seven innings.

Freshman Taylor Rossman (0-2) was tagged with the loss in relief by surrendering seven runs, six earned, on five hits in 1.1 innings. Senior Dale Tillman allowed four runs, two earned, in 2.2 relief frames, while Brown scattered two hits and fanned three in three scoreless innings for the no-decision.

Offensively, Kesley Stewart went 3-for-5 with two RBI for the Gators. Kirsti Merritt and Stephanie Tofft each finished with two hits.

Freshman Emily Sanchez had two hit to lead the JU offense, while senior Sarah Simon had a solo home run. Junior Codi Kelly added an RBI hit in the loss.

In JU’s first inning, Brown led off with a walk. Rogers got two quick outs, but allowed a hit to Sanchez to advance Brown to second. The Gators cut down Brown at third in the next at-bat on a fielder’s choice hit to end the inning.

Junior Karson Tuck kept the pressure on Rogers with a leadoff double to start the second inning. Rogers settled down and struck out two of the next three batters to quash the threat.

Brown felt more at ease for the Dolphins than Rogers to start the game. After allowing a one-out single in the first inning, Brown retired the next seven batters in a row. Stewart got a two-out single off Brown in the third and stole second. Brown got a fly out in the next at-bat to strand Stewart.

Brown carried her momentum into the bottom of the inning by hitting a solo homer inside of the left field foul pole to give JU a 1-0 lead. Kelly followed with a walk and advanced to second on sacrifice bunt in the next at-bat. Sanchez pushed her to third on a single, but Rogers retired the next two batters to wiggle out of another jam.

With one out in the fourth inning, Bailey Castro hit a home run to center off of Rossman to even the score for Florida. Little was hit by a pitch in the next at-bat. Rossman induced a fly out, but Tofft doubled home Little and scored herself on an error for the 3-2 lead.

JU got a run with two outs in the bottom of the fourth, but three of the first four Florida hitters reached in the fifth to set up Little’s grand slam. The Gators scored two more runs in the inning on an error, while a two-out, two-run triple by Stewart in the seventh quashed any JU comeback.

The Dolphins kick off the first of two home tournaments at the JU Softball Complex Friday against Stony Brook (4:15 p.m.) and Ohio State (6:30 p.m.).