The early bird gets the worm. Well, at least two times out of three.
Early leads were essential in No. 13 Missouri softball’s (38-13, 14-7 Southeastern Conference) 2-1 series win against then-No. 3 Florida over the weekend, the Tigers’ 10th victory against a ranked opponent this season.
On Friday, the top of the Tiger batting order led the way, starting in the third inning. Singles from sophomore outfielders Taylor Gadbois and Emily Crane, combined with a pair of Gator errors, brought in the first two runs. Junior infielders Angela Randazzo and Corrin Genovese batted in three more runs in the fifth.
Freshman pitcher Tori Finucane held off Florida’s three-run rally in the bottom of the seventh, ending the night with six strikeouts for her eighth consecutive win.
Game 2 once again started off with a slew of Missouri runs.
Hits from Crane and senior outfielder Mackenzie Sykes in the opening frame drove in three runs. Redshirt sophomore catcher Sami Fagan, who played for Florida her freshman year, was hit by a pitch and later scored from third on a wild pitch.
After the 4-0 Tiger lead, however, the Gators responded with nine unanswered runs over the third and fourth innings off of freshman pitcher Casey Stangel. No further damage was done by either side and Florida won 9-4.
The pattern continued Sunday, as the Tigers were able to close out the series with a narrow 5-4 win, getting on the board early with another four-run first inning.
Genovese accounted for the first four RBIs with her first career grand slam. Stangel made up for Saturday’s performance with a solo home run in the second, her first at-bat since April 9. Florida once again attempted a rally, scoring three runs in the bottom of the second off a multitude of walks and wild pitches and adding another in the fifth. But the Gators’ effort fell short against Finucane’s 10 strikeouts.
The series win marks the second time this year Missouri has defeated a team ranked No. 1 in RPI and the fifth straight conference win for the Tigers.
Following a doubleheader versus Creighton on Wednesday, Missouri will take on No. 6 Alabama in its last conference series of the regular season starting Friday in Columbia.