The No. 1
University of Florida Softball team (62-2) earned a 7-2 win over Georgia Tech
(31-30) in the first round of NCAA Tournament action on Friday night. After a 90
minutes rain delay, the Gators used a first inning grand slam by sophomore Francesca Enea
(Woodland Hills, Calif.) to boost them to victory.
Florida took an early 4-0 lead in the
bottom of the first. Junior Kim Waleszonia (Fontana,
Calif.) led off the inning with a
bunt single. Freshman Aja Paculba (Wildomar, Calif.) added a single through the left
side. Junior Ali Gardiner drew a
walk on a full count to load the bases. Enea
stepped up to the plate and took the first pitch over the fence in left field
for the second grand slam of her career. It was also her 15th home run of the
season and put her within two of the school record. Her other career grand slam
came last year against Georgia Tech in regional action. With one out, freshman Megan Bush (Anaheim Hills, Calif.)
added a base hit to left. Senior Mary
knocked a double to the left field fence. Bush attempted to come home on the
hit, but was thrown out at home. On the throw home, Ratliff made a move to take
third, but moved to go back to second and was caught in a run down for the
third out of the inning.
Tech scored its first run in the top of the fourth. Savannah Brown led off the
inning with a base hit deep in the infield. Florida
junior pitcher Stacey Nelson (Los Alamitos,
Calif.) had line drive from
Whitney Haller hit off her right arm, but she picked it up to throw to Gardiner
at first for the out. Nelson struck out the next batter for the second out of
the inning, but a Gator error for the next batter allowed Brown to score from
second to narrow Florida’s
lead to 4-1. The run was the first given up by the Gators in their last four
Florida tacked on two more runs in the
bottom of the fourth to extend their lead to five runs. Ratliff led off the
inning with a walk on four straight pitches. She moved to second on a sacrifice
bunt by junior Kristina Hilberth (Dunedin,
Fla.). A base hit by sophomore Corrie Brooks (Christmas, Fla.) moved Ratliff to third. Brooks moved
to second on the play. Ratliff scored from third on a wild pitch. With two
outs, a base hit to left by Paculba scored Brooks for
the 6-1 Gator lead. Tiffany Johnson came in the game in relief of Georgia Tech
starter Whitney Humphreys. Johnson gave up a walk to Gardiner before catching a
line drive from Enea to end the inning.
Yellow Jackets added a second run in the top of the fifth. Aileen Morales led
off the inning with a double. She scored on a base hit to left center by Shimandle to narrow the Gator lead to 6-2.
Florida’s final run came in the bottom of
the sixth as Brooks took an 0-2 Johnson pitch over the
center field fence for her second home run of the season and the 7-2 Gator
improved to 41-2 with the win. She struck out seven batters, while giving up
four hits and walking three Georgia Tech batters. Freshman Stephanie Brombacher (Pembroke Pines, Fla.)
pitched the final inning in relief of Nelson, striking out one batter and
allowing a hit. Humphreys took the loss for Georgia Tech, giving up six runs in
3.2 innings. Johnson pitched the final 2.1 innings in relief.
Florida moves on to face UCF (47-18) in
Saturday’s first game at 1 p.m. UCF defeated USF in Friday’s first game, 3-2.
USF and Georgia Tech will face off at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday. The loser of the 1
p.m. game will face the winner of the 3:30 p.m. game at 6 p.m. in an
elimination game. Video for all games in the Gainesville NCAA Regional is
available through GatorVision Online. Each of Florida’s games is broadcast live on WRUF AM 850 in Gainesville and on the
web at WRUF.com and GatorZone.com.