GAINESVILLE, Fla. - Charleston Southern pushed the No. 5/5 Florida Gators to the limit on the final day of the Florida Lipton Invitational by forcing extra innings after scoring three runs in the top of the sixth, but the host Gators closed out a perfect tournament run in extra innings on Jessica Damico's walk-off double in the 4-3 victory.
The Buccaneers scored all three runs off UF starter Hannah Rogers (5-0) on the season, staking CSU to a 3-0 lead in the top of the sixth inning. UF tied the game up in the bottom of the seventh on Lauren Haeger's two-out solo home run off Linzy Rother (1-2) and closed out their 12th win to open the 2013 season with Damico's hit in the bottom of the eighth.
Charleston Southern falls to 2-6 overall in the season following the Florida Lipton Invitational, while UF improves to 12-0 overall.
Marci Christian led the CSU bats in the game, driving a double, while driving in the Bucs lone RBI in the contest. Jana Matthews also connected on a double and scored a run, while Stephanie Sbardella also crossed the plate for CSU in the sixth inning.
The teams battled through a scoreless first three innings with Rogers retiring seven CSU batters in a row following Sbardella's two-out single in the top of the first inning.
The Gators threatened to put up a crooked frame in the bottom of the second inning after CSU starter Jennifer Giles started the game with a 1-2-3 inning in the first.
After a strikeout to open the second inning, Kelsey Horton and Damico reached on a hit by pitch and walk respectively, advancing into scoring position on a wild pitch. With two outs, Kathlyn Medina drew a walk to load the bases, but Giles retired the final batter on a ground out to end the threat and keep the game scoreless.
Charleston Southern threatened in the top of the fourth inning, placing two runners on with one out as Sbardella drew a walk and Christian followed with a single to left centerfield. However, Rogers pitched her way out of trouble, retiring the next two batters without the runners advancing to put a zero in the scoring column.
The Buccaneers punched through in the top of the sixth inning, scoring three runs to take the first lead of the contest. Matthews opened the scoring opportunity with a one-out double to left centerfield and Sbardella followed with her second walk of contest, putting two on for Christian. The junior first baseman delivered with her third double of the season, bringing Matthews around for the first run of the contest. Following a groundout, Melanie Stickney reached on a fielding error by Rogers, allowing Sbardella and Christian to score on the play, giving CSU the 3-0 lead with less than two innings to play.
Florida took two back in the bottom half of the inning as the Gators loaded the bases with two outs as Little was hit by a pitch. Back-to-back illegal pitches brought Taylor Schwarz and Horton home, cutting into the CSU lead. Rother took the mound for the Bucs following the second offering; catching AubreeMunro looking at a third strike with the go-ahead run on second base to kept the CSU lead intact.
Natalie Yonan reached on a one-out single to right field for the Bucs in the top of the seventh, but ended the inning stranded on second base, setting the stage for Haeger's game tying home run in the bottom half of the inning.
CSU was unable to plate a run in the top of the eighth with the international tiebreaker in play, leading way to UF taking advantage as Bailey Castro was bunted over to third before Damico's walk-off double ended the contest in favor of the home team.
Charleston Southern is back in action in the state of South Carolina next weekend for the CofC Cougar Classic, hosted by local rival College of Charleston. Over the three day tournament, running from February 22-24, the Buccaneers will take on Wagner (twice), Radford, South Carolina and host College of Charleston. Play in the tournament begins next Friday as the Bucs take on Wagner at the Patriots Point Athletics Complex at 6 p.m.