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Saturday March 10, 2007Softball Hands No. 1 Tennessee First Loss of Season

Gainesville, FL

The No. 19 University of Florida Softball team (19-9, 1-1 SEC) split a doubleheader with No. 1 Tennessee (23-1, 1-1 SEC), thus ending the Lady Vols nation-leading 23-game win streak on Saturday afternoon at the Florida Softball Stadium. The Gators fell in the first game 1-0 in 10 innings, but came back to take game two 4-0.

 

The win was Floridaís second over a top-ranked team this season and Floridaís third win over the nationís No. 1 team in fives tries. It is also the third time the Gators have given the nationís top team their first loss of the season.

 

The Gatorís got base runners on in every inning but the first in game two, but didnít do their scoring until the late innings. Sophomore Kim Waleszonia (Fontana, Calif.) earned a two-out walk in the fifth. She came home on a double to left by senior Lauren Roussell (Cerritos, Calif.) to put Florida in the lead, 1-0.

 

Florida got its bats going in the sixth as they tallied three runs on three hits. Senior Lacy Howard (League City, Texas) beat out an infield single to second to lead off the inning. Sophomore Ali Gardiner (Waccabuc, N.Y.) followed with a hard grounder that blew past Tennessee first baseman Tonya Callahan as she was charging in anticipating a bunt. A walk to sophomore Savana Kelly (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.) loaded the bases. With one out, freshman Corrie Brooks (Christmas, Fla.) drove a base hit to left to score Howard and sophomore Brittany Handy (Gainesville, Fla.) who was pinch running for Gardiner. Kelly moved to third and Brooks advanced to second on an error by the Lady Vols left fielder on the play. Kelly crossed the plate, sliding under the tag at home and leaving freshman pinch hitter Jenna Olmo (Pembroke Pines, Fla.) safe at first on the fielderís choice play, to put Florida up 4-0.

 

Floridaís offense wasnít the only story of the game, as Floridaís defense had an excellent outing. Tennessee was not able to get a runner beyond second in the game and did not have more than two base runners in an inning. With one out and runners on first and second Howard made two great plays in the outfield. She made a phenomenal diving catch in right center to end the inning and prevent the two runs from scoring. Howard tied her career high with five putouts in the game. In the seventh, with one runner on the Gators turned a quick double play and ended the game with a fly out to sophomore Brooke Johnson (Lakeland, Fla.) in left.

 

Senior Stacey Stevens (Gainesville, Fla.) earned the win in the pitching circle. She did not give up her first hit until the fourth inning and improved her record to 8-4 on the year. Sophomore Stacey Nelson (Los Alamitos, Calif.) pitched the final inning in relief of Stevens. Tennessee pitcher Megan Rhodes struck out six Gators and walked three in the loss. She moves to 6-1 on the year.

 

Defense and pitching was crucial to both teams in the first game of the day. The teams were knotted in a scoreless tie for nine innings before Tennessee pushed the winning run across in the top of the 10th.

 

Lindsay Schutzler started the 10th on second due to the international tie-breaker rule. She scored on a Gator throwing error on a sacrifice bunt by India Chiles to give the Lady Vols the 1-0 lift.

 

The Gators had a chance in the bottom of the inning, but werenít able to push the tying run across. Waleszonia was Floridaís player at second. She moved to third on ground out by Roussell, The next two batters fouled out and struck out, ending Floridaís chances.

 

Gardiner had Floridaís only hit of the game, a base hit through the left side in the fifth inning.

 

Floridaís defense forced Tennessee to leave 11 runners on base in the game, including nine through the first seven innings. The Lady Vols got runners to third in the third, fifth and seventh innings, but were stymied by the Gator defense.

 

In the third, Liane Horiuchi was hit by a pitch to lead off the inning. She was out at second on a fielderís choice play as Kenora Posey hit the ball back to pitcher Nelson, who fired a strike at short stop Roussell and second for the first out of the inning. Posey stole second and Schutzler singled to Roussell to put runners at first and second. Posey attempted to steal third but was thrown out as sophomore catcher Kristina Hilberth (Dunedin, Fla.) threw behind her to Roussell at second who immediately tossed the ball to senior third baseman Melissa Zick (Tampa, Fla.) at third for the out. A Chiles bunt advanced Schutzler to third, but a routine ground out to Roussell ended the inning.

 

In the fifth, Tennessee again moved Schutzler to third with two outs, but Nelson struck out Tiffany Hugg to end the Lady Vols threat.

 

Tennessee loaded the bases with two outs in the seventh, but Nelson forced a routine fly out to Johnson in left to end the inning.

 

Floridaís Nelson struck out nine in the loss. She only walked one batter and did not give up that walk until 10th inning. Her record now stands at 11-5 on the year. Tennesseeís Monica Abbott earned the win to improve to 17-0. She gave up only one hit, one walk and struck out 22, including 17 through the first seven innings.††

 

There were 1,464 fans on hand to watch the game. It was the largest crowd at the Florida Softball Stadium since the program opener in 1997.

 

The teams will play the rubber match on Sunday at 1 p.m. at the Florida Softball Stadium. The first 250 fans will receive a free Gator Softball t-shirt. It is also a Gators Love to Read Day and fans bringing new or used books to donate to the Alachua County Library will be entered to win prizes. Following the game there will be a Meet the Team barbecue, hosted by the Gator Diamond Club. The barbecue is free to all Gator Diamond Club members and two dollars for the general public.

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