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Wednesday March 21, 2007Softball Sweeps FIU in Doubleheader

Gainesville, FL

The No. 22 Florida Softball team (22-14) got back to its winning ways Wednesday afternoon, as it swept a doubleheader with FIU (13-21), winning the first game 5-3 and the second 9-0 in six innings.


The Gators scored first in their half of the opening inning. With one out, senior Lauren Roussell (Cerritos, Calif.) and sophomore Ali Gardner (Waccabuc, N.Y.) reached on back-to-back errors by the FIU infield. A ground out to second by senior Lacy Howard (League City, Texas) moved the runners to second and third. Senior Melissa Zick (Tampa, Fla.) knocked a base hit back to the Panther pitcher to score Roussell. Junior Mary Ratliff’s (Mt. Sterling, Ky.) base hit through the right side scored Gardiner for the 2-0 lead.


FIU tied the game in the top of the third frame. With one out, Katie Bell reached base on balls on a full count from Florida senior pitcher Stacey Stevens (Gainesville, Fla.). A base hit to left by Deomni Murray put runners at first and second. Desiree Fink reached first on a fielder’s choice, as the Gator defense put Bell out at third. Tabitha Embry’s base hit to left field scored Murray from second. The runner’s advanced to second and third on a wild pitch from Stevens. Monique White grabbed a base hit to score Fink and tie the game at 2-2. Embry attempted to scored the go ahead run on the play but was thrown out at home by Gator left fielder, sophomore Brooke Johnson (Lakeland, Fla.)


The Gators took a two-run lead again in the bottom half of the third. Howard led off the inning with a base hit up the middle. With one out, Ratliff knocked her second hit of the game to left field. With two outs, sophomore Kristina Hilberth (Dunedin, Fla.) hit the first triple of her career to score both runners and give Florida the 4-2 lead.


The Panthers brought the game back within one run in the following half inning. Kim Rodriguez led off with a base hit to short and advanced to second on a throwing error. She moved to third on a Ashley Falk ground out to second. A Lauren Spiers base hit scored Rodriguez to make the score 4-3 in favor of the Gators.


Florida added an insurance run in the bottom half of the fourth as Gardiner scored on a Zick base hit to center for the 5-3 Gator lead.


Stacey Stevens pitched six innings in the win to improve to 9-7 on the year. She struck out seven and gave up only one walk. Sophomore Stacey Nelson (Los Alamitos, Calif.) came in to relieve Stevens with no outs and a runner on base in the top of the seventh to earn her third save of the season. Kerri Houck took the loss for Florida International.


The Gators opened game two with three runs in the bottom of the first. Gardiner got the Gators started, drawing a two out walk from FIU starter Penny Eastman. Howard drove a base hit down the left field line to move Gardiner to third. Gardiner scored and Howard moved to third on a wild pitch. Zick walked to put runners at first and third for the Gators. A double steal scored Howard and moved Zick into scoring position. Zick earned her second steal of the inning when she took third. A Ratliff single up the middle scored Zick to give the Gators the 3-0 lift.


Florida tacked on two more in the fifth. Roussell led off the inning with a base hit through the left side. Howard knocked a one-out single through the left side. Zick found herself safe at first as Roussell was put out at third on the fielder’s choice. A Ratliff double off the center field wall brought in both runners for the 5-0 Florida lead.


Jenna Olmo started the Gator sixth with a pinch hit triple to center field. It was the first triple of her career and the sixth for the Gators this season. Olmo scored on a sacrifice fly by sophomore Kim Waleszonia (Fontana, Calif.) Roussell was hit by a pitch and Gardiner walked, representing what would be the game ending run by the eight-run rule. Sophomore Brittany Handy (Gainesville, Fla.) came in to pinch run for Gardiner. Howard stepped up to the plate a blasted the two-out, walk off, three-run home run to left center to give Florida the 9-0 shutout. The home run was Howard’s third of the season, tying her with Zick and freshman Francesca Enea (Woodland Hills, Calif.) for the team lead.


The shutout was Nelson’s fifth of the season. She now holds a 13-7 record on the season. Eastman took the loss for Florida International to move to 7-9 on the year.


Howard finished the day going 5-for-7 at the plate with four runs scored and three RBI in the two games. Ratliff went 4-for-6 with a run scored and five RBI. Waleszonia had a hit in the first game, but not in the second, ending her team-leading hit streak at eight games.


Florida plays another doubleheader Thursday evening at the Florida Softball Stadium. The Gators will take on Princeton with the first pitch for game one set at 5 p.m.

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