first time since the inaugural season of softball in the league, the Florida
Gators have advanced to the Southeastern Conference Championship game. The No.
19 Gators (46-19) defeated the No. 1 Tennessee Lady Vols
(54-5), 1-0, in Friday night’s second semifinal game. The Gators will now face
No. 5 LSU at 1 p.m. ET on Saturday.
Tennessee pitcher Monica Abbott had struck out six Gators in a row
when senior Melissa Zick
took a 1-1 count over the left field fence to give the Gators the 1-0 lead in
the top of the fourth. The home run was Zick’s 13th
of the season and extended her hit streak to 16 games.
Ali Gardiner (Waccabuc, N.Y.)
was the first Gator on base in the top of the first as she drew a walk from
Abbott with two outs in the inning.
batter India Chiles was hit by a sophomore Stacey
Nelson (Los Alamitos,
Calif.) pitch to lead off the
bottom of the first. Nicole Kajitani came in to pinch run for her, but was
called out for leaving first early with a 2-2 count on Lindsay Schutzler. Schutzler reached on
an infield base hit, but was out as the Gators turned a double play on Tonya
Callahan’s ground out to senior Lauren Roussell (Cerritos,
Calif.) at short.
Tennessee got its second hit of the game in
the bottom of the fourth and Schutzler beat out an
infield base hit to short with one out in the inning. She stole second to put
herself in scoring position. Following the second hit of the inning, Tiffany
Huff was hit by a Nelson pitch, putting two Tennessee runners on base. They would not
get any further as Shannon Doepking popped up to
Gardiner at first to end the inning.
Senior Lacy Howard (League
City, Texas) knocked down Florida’s second hit of
the game as she took an Abbott offering through the left side with one out in the
top of the fifth. She stole second as freshman Corrie Brooks (Christmas, Fla.)
struck out swinging. She would not move beyond second though as sophomore Kristina Hilberth
grounded out to second.
grabbed her third hit in with two outs in the bottom of the sixth. It looked as
if Tennessee would extend the inning with a hit from Tonya Callahan, but
sophomore Kim Waleszonia
(Fontana, Calif.) dove and stretched her 5-4 frame as long as possible to catch
the ball in the tip of her glove to end the inning.
on the receiving end of Nelson’s first walk of the game to begin the bottom of
the seventh. Lillian Hammond came in to pinch run for her and moved to second
on a sacrifice bunt by Doepking. Anita Manuma grounded out to Zick at
third for the second out of the inning. Jennifer Griffin took Nelson to a full
count before Nelson struck her out swinging to send the Gators to the
tied the school record for wins with her 30th of the season. Chelsey Sakizzie set the record
in both 1997 and 1998. Nelson held Tennessee
to just three hits, all by Schutzler, and struck out
six. Abbott moved to 41-3 on the season and struck out 13 while allowing only
two hits and two walks in the game.
“It was a battle; such a great game to
head coach Tim Walton said. “When you face someone like Monica Abbott and Tennessee, you’re going
to have to be on top of your game as a pitcher to keep them off base. Stacey
Nelson had good stuff today. She started off a little shaky, but she really
came back and did a good job working both sides of the plate.”
championship game will be televised live on Fox Sports South. In addition to Florida’s regular
broadcast on WRUF AM850 and GatorZone.com, the SEC is providing a broadcast on
XM Radio channel 199.