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Friday April 6, 2007Softball Shuts Out Lady Backs

Gainesville, FL

The 23rd-ranked Florida Softball team (32-16, 8-8 SEC) shut out Southeastern Conference foe Arkansas (16-33, 3-12 SEC) 4-0 and 5-0 in a doubleheader at the Florida Softball Stadium Friday night. The Gators won by playing two complete games withh stellar pitching performances and strong bats.    


The Gators broke the scoreless tie in the bottom of the fourth inning in game one when freshman Francesca Enea (Woodland Hills, Calif.) hit a homerun, her fourth of season, off the left field foul pole. Sophomore Ali Gardiner (Waccabuc, N.Y.) followed with a single to center. With two outs, junior Mary Ratliff (Mt. Sterling, Ky.) drove a double to left center field to score Gardiner, giving the Gators a 2-0 lead. Ratliff’s double was her seventh on the season, giving her twice as many doubles this season as the previous two years of her career.


The Gators got going again in the fifth inning. Sophomore Kim Waleszonia (Fontana, Calif.) reached first with a bunt single. Senior Lauren Roussell (Cerritos, Calif.) then singled to left.  Waleszonia and Roussell executed a perfect double steal on the next pitch putting both runners is scoring position for Enea. Waleszonia was caught in a pickle between third and home as Enea hit into a fielder’s choice to third base for the second out of the inning. Freshman Corrie Brooks (Christmas, Fla.) came in to pinch run for Enea at first base. Brooks swiped second base on the next pitch for her fifth steal of the season. With two outs, Gardiner drove a single to center field to score Roussell and Brooks to put the Gators up by four runs. 


Nelson (19-9) pitched a complete game shutout, recording nine strikeouts while surrendering only one hit to the Lady Backs. This was the second one-hitter in Nelson’s career, the other coming against Florida International earlier this season. Katy Henry took the loss for Arkansas to move to 10-15 on the year. 


The Gators scored quickly in the first inning of game two to set the tone for the game. Waleszonia led off with a single to second base.  She stole second for her team-leading 15th steal of the season. Roussell was hit by a pitch. Enea advanced the runners with a ground out to shortstop. Gardiner scored Waleszonia and Roussell with a double to right field to give the Gators a 2-0 lead. 


The Gators strung a few hits together in the fourth to add to their lead.  Senior Lacy Howard (League City, Texas) and Ratliff reached base on a pair of singles. Sophomore Brooke Johnson (Lakeland, Fla.) ripped her second double of the season to score Howard and give the Gators a 3-0 edge.


The Gators put another run on the board in the fifth inning as senior Melissa Zick (Tampa, Fla.) hit her fourth homerun of the season to put Florida ahead 4-0. Zick’s homerun tied her with Enea and Howard for the team lead. 


The Gators kept rolling into the sixth inning. Waleszonia reached on a bunt single.  Roussell drew a walk to put Waleszonia in scoring position. Enea singled to score Waleszonia to give the Gators the final 5-0 lead.


The Gators received another strong pitching performance, this time from senior Stacy Stevens (Gainesville, Fla.). Stevens held the Lady Backs scoreless while striking out three and surrendering only five hits. 


Offensively, the Gators were led by Gardiner who put together a 4-for-7 performance on the day with four RBI, a run scored and a double. Waleszonia also went 4-for-7 with two runs scored and two stolen bases. Ratliff extended her hitting streak to seven games to tie her career high. She finished the day 3-for-5 with a RBI and a double. Zick finished the day 3-for-7 with a home run and now needs only two more runs to set the Florida career record for runs scored.


Florida and Arkansas will face off in the series finale at noon on Saturday. There will be lots of fun for the kids at the Florida Softball Stadium. It is Eggstravaganza Saturday. There will be an egg hunt for all fans 12 and under prior to the game, there will be an egg coloring contest and a bunny will be handing out candy-filled eggs.

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