The University of Florida
Softball team held off elimination in its first game on
Saturday, claiming a 1-0 victory over North
Carolina, only to be defeated by Florida Atlantic for
the second time in as many days. Florida
finishes its season with a 43-25 record
game took the Gators eight innings to win and a strong pitching performance by
freshman Stacey Nelson (Los Alamitos,
Calif.) was a big part of that
win. Nelson pitched a career-high eight shutout innings to earn the win,
improving her record to 14-12 on the year and tying the Florida freshman record for wins. Nelson
allowed only three Tarheel hits, struck out five and
gave up only one walk.
one win also made first-year head coach Tim Walton the winningest
first year head coach in the 10-year history of the program. He has 43 wins and
a .632 win percentage, besting Larry Ray’s first season of 42 and a .627 win
several chances form both teams, the game came down to the bottom of the eighth
inning. Senior Stacie Pestrak (Gainesville,
Fla.) drew a lead off walk. With
one out, senior Kristen Butler (Orlando, Fla.)
laid down a sacrifice bunt to advance Pestrak. The Tarheel third baseman over threw first on the play, leaving
Butler safe and allowing Pestrak to score the
game-winning run from first on the error.
Florida looked as if the were going to
score early as they loaded the bases in the bottom of the first. Pestrak led off with a bunt single, but was caught stealing
on the next play. Freshman Kim Waleszonia (Fontana, Calif.) and Butler drew
back-to-back walks from North
Carolina pitcher Crystal Cox. After the second out of
the inning, junior Lacy Howard (League City, Texas) drew
the third walk of the inning to load the bases, but junior Melissa Zick (Tampa,
Fla.) hit into a fielder’s choice and Butler was put out at
third to end the inning.
not allow a North Carolina
batter on base until the fourth inning when lead off batter Cassie Palmer hit a
single up the middle.
North Carolina added two more hits and gave the
Gators a scare in the top of the seventh. With one out, Casey Testa knocked a base hit down the right field line. Marissa
May came in to pinch run for her. Jennifer Jacobs hit a second consecutive base
hit back at Nelson. Whitney Gelin came in to pinch
run for Jacobs. A ground out by pinch hitter Alyssa Francona
advanced the runners to second and third, but the final batter of the inning
popped up to junior short stop Lauren Roussell (Cerritos, Calif.) to end the inning.
could have ended the game in the bottom of the seventh. Howard led off the
inning with a double to center, the only extra base hit of the game for either
team. She moved to third on a sacrifice bunt by Zick.
Following a second out, Senior Lindsay Norfleet (Madison,
Fla.) drew a walk. Junior Shelley Stevens (Gainesville, Fla.)
came in to pinch run for Norfleet and stole second.
Things looked good for the Gators, but sophomore Mary Ratliff’s (Mt.
Sterling, Ky.) hard
hit to center was caught by the Tarheel centerfielder
for the last out of the inning.
North Carolina’s Cox took the loss to finish her
season with a 27-10 record. She struck out six Gators batters, while also
walking six in the loss.
Florida had to play Florida Atlantic immediately following the North Carolina game to see who would have the opportunity
to face South Florida in the regional final.
This time Florida
would come out on the losing end of a one-run game.
Atlantic scored its run in the bottom of the fourth. Mandie
Fishback drew the leadoff walk from junior pitcher Stacey Stevens (Gainesville, Fla.).
Marlene Lopez came in to pinch run for Fishback.
Lopez moved into scoring position on a sacrifice bunt by Kala
Guy. With two outs, Amy Bukovich knocked a base hit
to right field to score Lopez. The Gators were nearly able to throw her out at
the plate, but she just beat the throw home for the 1-0 lead.
did not get their first hit until the top of the fifth, when Melissa Zick ripped a base hit to left. Florida could not get the timely hits
together as they had chances to score in the fifth and the sixth, but ended up
leaving five runners stranded in the two innings.
took the loss for Florida
to finish her season with a 20-9 record. She pitched 4.1 innings, struck out
one and walked two before Nelson came in to relieve her with one out in the
fifth. Nelson gave up only one hit in the remaining 1.2 innings, to finish the
day with 9.1 innings of shut out softball. Kathryn Stauffer earned the win for
Florida Atlantic to improve her record to 11-14. Jen Musillo
relieved Stauffer in the fifth to earn the save. She struck out five Gators in
the 2.2 innings she pitched.
three games, we faced pressure situations,” Head Coach Tim Walton said. “So I
am proud of the way our pitchers came back and pitched. I’m really proud pf the
challenge that they were able to answer. Obviously, we didn’t accomplish all
that we wanted to – we’ll be going home 1-2. It was kind of a bad way to end
the season for a lot of people, but I thought that our kids played hard and
that’s the first step in having this program take off.”
Florida will be saying good
by to seniors Stacie Pestrak, Lindsay Norfleet, Lindsey Cameron, Kristen Butler, Laura Templeton
and Mirelis Torres. The six players have accomplished
many great things at Florida,
made their way into the record books and help set several team records. They
are the first class in Florida
history to reach the NCAA tournament all four years of their career. They
finish their careers at Florida
with a 166-93 record over four years. Pestrak,
Cameron and Butler
finish the season as three of the top four Gator hitters this season.
Play in the
Gainesville Regional will wrap up tomorrow as Florida Atlantic and South Florida face off in the championship game at noon.