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Thursday March 13, 2008Ratliff Hits Grand Slam as Softball Splits With No. 2 Tide

Gainesville, FL

The No. 4/4 Florida Softball team split a double header with No. 2/3 Alabama (21-3, 3-2 SEC) to improve to 28-2 on the season and 4-1 in Southeastern Conference play. The Gators fell 1-0 in the first game, but came back to win the second game 8-4 with late inning heroics by its lone senior hitting the first glad slam for the team since Francesca Enea (Woodland Hills, Calif.) hit one in the 2007 Regional Final against Texas.  

 

The Gators were knotted in a 4-4 tie going into the seventh inning of game two when the team used patience at the plate and timely hitting to take the lead and the win. Junior Kim Waleszonia (Fontana, Calif.) dropped a bunt single in front of the Alabama third baseman. She advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by freshman Aja Paculba (Wildomar, Calif.). Freshman Tiffany DeFelice (Coral Springs, Fla.) and junior Ali Gardiner (Waccabuc, N.Y.) drew back-to-back two-out walks to load the bases. Then senior Mary Ratliff (Mt. Sterling, Ky.) stepped up to the plate. Ratliff had struck out in her three previous at bats in the game. Alabama pitcher Kelsi Dunne took Ratliff to an 0-2 count before Ratliff took the third offering deep to left center for her first career grand slam and her seventh home run of the season. 

 

Lauren Parker led off the bottom of the sixth with a double for Alabama. Junior pitcher Stacey Nelson (Los Alamitos, Calif.) replaced freshman Stephanie Brombacher (Pembroke Pines, Fla.) in the circle for Florida. Woods drew a walk from Nelson. Both runners advanced on a Morgan sacrifice bunt that stopped right infront of the plate. A Whitney Larsen ground out back at Nelson scored Cat Dozier, who was pinch running for Parker. Holcombe earned her third RBI of the game with a double to right center to score Woods and tie the game at 4-4.

 

DeFelice put the Gators on the board first in the top of the second frame as she knocked a lead off home run down the left field line, just hitting on the inside edge of the left field foul pole. It was her sixth of the season, tying the team lead.

 

The Tide tied up the game in the bottom of the same inning. Dani Woods led off the inning with a double to left center. Following a strikeout from Brombacher, Charlotte Morgan drew a walk. Ashley Holcombe hit a RBI-single to right center, scoring Woods and tying the game at 1-1 with only one out and runners on first and third. Brombacher took care of business as she forced Kellie Eubanks to pop up to sophomore Corrie Brooks (Christmas, Fla.) at third and struck out Jordan Praytor looking for the final out of the inning.

 

The Gators put together a productive top of the third to take the lead once again. Junior Kristina Hilberth (Dunedin, Fla.) led off with a base hit just over the head of Alabama third baseman Kelley Montalvo. Brooks followed with a base hit to center. Florida’s third hit of the inning, this one to the left field warning track from Waleszonia, scored Hilberth for a 2-1 Gator lead. Dunne, who pitched a complete game in game one, came in to replace starter Chrissy Owens in the pitching circle for Alabama. It took 11 pitches, but Paculba took a Dunne offering to left center for a double to score Brooks and give the Gators a two-run cushion.

 

Florida added another run in the fourth frame. Freshman Megan Bush (Anaheim Hills, Calif.) drew a lead off walk from Dunne. Junior Danyell Hines (Bryan, Texas) pinch ran for Bush at first. Hilberth reached on an error by Tide short stop Eubanks. Waleszonia drove her second hit of the game to center, scoring Hine to put Florida in the lead 4-1.

 

The Tide narrowed Florida’s lead to two runs in the bottom of the fifth as Ashley Holcombe knocked a lead-off home run over the fence in the left center field to make the score 4-2 in favor of the Gators.

 

Two hits were all it took for the Alabama Crimson Tide to give Florida its second loss of the season in the first game of the doubleheader. The Gators out it the Tide 3-2, but were not able to push a runner beyond second. 

 

Alabama got on the board first in the bottom of the third inning as their first hit of the game produced the first run of the game. Jordan Praytor drew a leadoff walk from Florida pitcher Nelson. Nelson threw out Praytor at second on a fielder’s choice play that left Brittany Rogers safe at first. Rogers stole second. With two outs, Lauren Park knocked an RBI base hit to left center, scoring Rogers for the 1-0 Tide lead.

 

Florida had its best chance to score in the final inning. With one out, Gardiner knocked a base hit to center field. Junior Le-Net Franklin (Belton, Texas) entered the game to pinch run for Gardiner. Following the second out of the inning freshman pinch hitter Kristine Priebe (Moorpark, Calif.) was hit by a pitch pushing Franklin to second, the first time in the game a Gator moved beyond first. The inning and the game would end there as the final Gator batter of the inning popped up to foul territory just in the reach of Alabam third baseman Kelley Montalvo.

 

Florida put a runner on in every inning except the third and sixth. The Gators got the first hit of the game in the second as Gardiner grabbed a base hit up the middle. Hilberth had the second Florida hit of the game in the fifth as she dropped a short hit just on the left field grass right inside the foul line.

 

Nelson and Dunne each earned a win and a loss in the double header. Nelson took the loss for Florida in game one, but won game two to move to 17-2 on the year. She gave up only two hits, but walked seven, while striking out seven in game one. Nelson pitched the final two innings of game two for the win. She gave up one hit and one walk and struck out two. Dunne earned the win for Alabama in game one and the loss in game two to move to 9-3 on the year. She struck out seven Gators, while walking one and hitting two Florida batters in game one. In game two she pitched 5.0 innings, giving up five hits and walking four while striking out six. Brombacher started game two for Florida. She gave up three runs on five hits and one walk with three strikeouts. Owens lasted only two innings for Alabama, giving up three runs on five hits.

 

Florida continues its spring break road trip on Friday and Saturday as it takes on the Arkansas Lady Backs in Fayetteville. Friday’s double header begins at 4 p.m. ET and Saturday’s single game is at 1 p.m. All games will be broadcast live on GatorZone.com via Yahoo.com.

 

 

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