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Seniors Lindsey Cameron and Stacie Pestrak celebrate after Pestrak scored the winning run over UNC.

Saturday May 20, 2006Florida Splits in Regional Action, Ends Season at 43-25

Gainesville, FL

Seniors Lindsey Cameron and Stacie Pestrak celebrate after Pestrak scored the winning run over UNC.

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


The first 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.


The game 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 percentage.


Despite 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.


Nelson did 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.


The Gators 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.


Florida 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.


The Gators 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.


Stevens 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.


“In all 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. 



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