Photo by Brian Fox | ChompTalk.com

Down 6-5 in the bottom of the seventh, Florida designated player Kendyl Lindaman dug in with one out and runners in scoring position. On a 2-2 count, the fifth-year Iowan drove a sacrifice fly into left field to knot the game up at six.

The next at-bat, left fielder Jaimie Hoover showed bunt before she pulled back and sent a hard grounder to Missouri shortstop Jenna Laird, who bobbled the ball and failed to throw it over to first in time.

Freshman pinch runner Katie Kistler scored the game-winning run from third base as the Gators pulled off a 7-6  comeback victory in the semifinals Friday.

“I don’t want anybody that watches the game to think that it’s easy to do what our kids can do,” head coach Tim Walton said. “It’s hard as heck.”

Florida right-hander Elizabeth Hightower started in the circle again and allowed a leadoff single in the top of the first to Mizzou center fielder Brooke Wilmes, who scored the first run of the day on a groundout.

The Gators tied it up in the bottom of the second after Jordan Matthews doubled into left-center and scored on right fielder Baylee Goddard’s one-out single through the left side. An inning later, Lindaman gave Florida its first lead on a two-run home run to left-center — her second of the tournament.

In the bottom of the fifth, third baseman Charla Echols extended the Gators’ advantage to 5-1 when she ripped an RBI double into left before she stole home with two outs. 

Florida southpaw Katie Chronister relieved Hightower following a leadoff walk in the top of the fourth and held the Tigers hitless until Mizzou second baseman Kendyll Bailey’s solo homer in the top of the sixth.

Chronister surrendered another run in the top of the seventh after a two-out rally led to an RBI single up the middle. After Missouri cut the deficit to 5-3, Florida right-hander Natalie Lugo entered the circle and gave up a go-ahead three-run bomb to first baseman Emma Raabe.

In the bottom half, Florida second baseman Hannah Adams drew a leadoff walk and catcher Emily Wilkie got hit by pitch before they advanced into scoring position on an Echols groundout. This set up Lindaman’s sac-fly and Hoover’s walk-off heroics.

“Until you’re in that moment, you don’t know how your body is going to respond, you don’t know how your heartbeat is going to respond, you don’t know what your mindset is going to be like,” Walton said. “Having those moments like that is really really beneficial to all of our young people.”

Although she allowed the go-ahead homer, Lugo picked up her 16th win this season, which matches Hightower’s team-high.

Final (R/H/E)

No. 15 Missouri: 6 / 8 / 1

No. 4 Florida: 7 / 8 / 1

Pitching Decision

Win: Lugo (16-2)

Loss: Nichols (6-3)

Individual Stats

Hightower: 4 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 3 K

Lugo: 3 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 0 K

  1. Adams: 0-3, 1 R, 1 BB
  2. Wilkie: 1-2, 1 R, 2 HBP
  3. Echols: 2-4, 2 R, 1 RBI, 1 2B, 1 SB
  4. Lindaman: 1-3, 1 R, 3 RBIs, 1 HR (8)
  5. Hoover: 1-3, 1 R, 1 BB, 1 SB
  6. Matthews: 1-2, 1 2B
  7. Goddard: 1-3, 1 RBI
  8. Longley: 0-3
  9. Lindsey: 1-3

SEC Tournament Championship

Florida will face Alabama in the conference tournament championship Saturday at 6 p.m. on ESPN2. The Gators won two out of three road contests against the Crimson Tide in the regular season.

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