The No. 1
Florida Softball team (61-2) advanced to the Southeastern Conference Tournament
Championship game with a 6-1 win over the No. 14 Tennessee Lady Vols (47-14) on Friday evening in Baton
Rouge, La. Florida’s win was the fourth in less than a
week over the Lady Vols. The Gators will take on Alabama on Saturday in the
the nine batters in the Gator lineup recorded hits on the night, but were led
by a 3-for-4 performance from lead off batter junior Kim Waleszonia (Fontana, Calif.). She
scored two runs and recorded two RBI and a double on the day. The Gators were
also helped with eight walks from the Tennessee
pitching staff, including two each to freshmen Aja Paculba (Wildomar, Calif.)
and Megan Bush (Anaheim
Hills, Calif.) and junior Ali Gardiner (Waccabuc, N.Y.).
Junior Stacey Nelson (Los Alamitos, Calif.)
improved her record to 39-2 on the year with the complete game win. She
scattered four Tennessee
hits, while walking three and striking out five. She is now just six strikeouts
from being the first Gator pitcher to record 300 or more strikeouts in a
season. Rhodes took the loss for Tennessee
to move to 20-9 on the season.
Tennessee got on the board first in the top
of the first. Kenora Posey beat out an infield base
hit to lead off the inning. After a Lillian Hammond strikeout, Posey stole
second and advanced to third on a Gator throwing error. SEC Pitcher of the Year
Nelson intentionally walked SEC Player of the Year Tonya Callahan to put
runners at first and third. A sacrifice bunt by Shannon Doepking
scored Posey from third to give the Lady Vols a 1-0
lead. Nelson struck out Tiffany Huff to end the inning without anymore damage.
Florida got its first runner on base with
a two out walk to Gardiner in the bottom of the first, but it was the bottom of
the second that would put the Gators in the lead. Freshman Tiffany DeFelice (Coral Springs, Fla.)
started a Gator rally as she drew a two-out walk on 13 pitches. Junior Kristina Hilberth
(Dunedin, Fla.) followed with a base hit to left.
Sophomore Corrie Brooks’ (Christmas, Fla.) single to left center scored DeFelice to tie the game at 1-1. Brooks advanced to second
on the throw home, leaving Gator runners at second and third. Waleszonia knocked a bases clearing double to left center to
add two more runs, but was thrown out at second coming back to the base after
making a move to second to end the inning with the Gators leading 3-1.
Gators got the first two runners on in the bottom of the third as freshman Paculba drew a walk from Tennessee pitcher Megan Rhodes and Gardiner
knocked a base hit to left. Ashton Ward came in the game to replace Rhodes in the circle and retired the next three Gator
batters to end the threat.
Gators sat down in order in the fourth, but added another run in the bottom of
the fifth. Waleszonia led off the inning with a base
hit to left center. Paculba followed with another
base hit. Ward threw a first pitch ball to Gardiner and was taken out in favor
of the Lady Vol starter, Rhodes. Sophomore Francesca Enea
(Woodland Hills, Calif.) used an 18-pitch at bat to knock a
single to deep in the infield to the short stop to load the bases. Bush drew
the four-pitch walk from Rhodes for an RBI and
the 4-1 Gator lead.
Florida added two more runs in its final
at bat for the 6-1 victory. Brooks drew a one-out walk from Rhodes.
Junior Le-Net Franklin (Belton, Texas)
came in to pinch run for Brooks. Waleszonia dropped a
bunt single in front of the plate. Franklin
was going all the way on the play, rounded second and headed to third sliding
into the base safe, just before the tag was applied. The throw to third allowed
Waleszonia to advance to second, putting two Gators
in scoring position. A walk to Paculba loaded the
bases, and a second consecutive walk, this one to Gardiner gave her an RBI as
it brought in Franklin.
Enea’s school record sixth sacrifice fly of the year
brought in Waleszonia for the sixth and final Gator
run of the game.
Gators will be playing in their third SEC Tournament Championship and second in
as many years. Top-seeded Florida will face
No. 2 seeded Alabama
at 1:30 p.m. ET Saturday. It will mark the first time since 2005 the top two
seeded teams will face each other in the tournament final. The game will air
live on Fox Regional Sports. Please check with your local cable provider for
specific channel information. The game will also be broadcast live on WRUF AM
850 in Gainesville
and www.WRUF.com and www.GatorZone.com.