Saturday May 31, 2008Softball Wins First WCWS Game While Setting NCAA Wins Record
Oklahoma City, OK
Gators celebrate a tremendous defensive effort in the bottom of the seventh to send the game versus
Florida’s first Women’s College World Series win was a record setter, as the Gators became the first softball team in NCAA history to record 68 wins in a season. The Gators 68th win was a 2-0, nine-inning victory over Virginia Tech in an elimination game at the WCWS in Oklahoma City, Okla.
The game came down to the ninth inning. Florida had five hits in the game, but had suffered 17 strikeouts at the hands of National Player of the Year Angela Tincher. Two more strikeouts began the Gator half of the ninth before junior Ali Gardiner (Wacccabuc, N.Y.) knocked her first hit of the game up the middle. Sophomore Francesca Enea (Woodland Hills, Calif.) knocked a base hit to short center to continue Florida’s two-out rally. Freshman Kristen Adkins (McKinney, Texas) came in to run for Gardiner at second. Freshman Tiffany DeFelice (Coral Springs, Fla.) was hit by a Tincher pitch on a change up in the 17th pitch of her at bat to load the bases. That brought up Florida’s lone senior Mary Ratliff (Mt. Sterling, Ky.). As she had many times before in the season, Ratliff came up with a late inning, clutch hit. This time it was a double, ripped through the left side to score Adkins and Enea for the win.
Junior Kim Waleszonia (Fontana, Calif.) led off the game with a base hit through the right side on a full count. She stole second on the next pitch to record the 59th stolen base of her career and set the Florida record for career stolen bases. She beat the previous record of 58 set by Lora Pinkerton from 1997-00 and tied by Jackie Marchetta from 2006-08. Freshman Aja Paculba (Wildomar, Calif.) reached on a bunt single and advanced to second as the Virginia Tech third baseman slipped on the infield. With runners at first and third, the next three Gators went down on strikes to end the inning.
Junior hurler Stacey Nelson (Los Alamitos, Calif.) and the Gator defense sat down the first seven Hokie batters in order before giving up the first hit of the game to Whitney Davis. Davis and Caroline Stolle were taken out on a Florida double play to end the inning.
The next hit of the game came in the top of the sixth as Paculba reached on her second bunt single of the game. The inning would end as Paculba was thrown out attempting to steal second for the third out of the inning.
Virginia Tech added another base hit as Caroline Stolle dropped a hit into right center with two outs in the bottom of the sixth. But a ground out to Nelson ended the inning.
The Florida bats began to wake up in the top of the seventh. With one out, Enea reached on an infield base hit. Junior Le-Net Franklin (Belton, Texas) came in to pinch run for her. Franklin slid past the base on the steal attempt for the second out of the inning. DeFelice got the first hit out of the infield for the Gators, as she dropped a base hit into left field. Junior Danyell Hines (Bryan, Texas) came in to pinch run for her and stole second to put herself in scoring position. She would be held there as the final Gator batter of the inning went down on strikes.
There were some tense moments in the bottom of the seventh. Lead off batter Erin Ota was safe at third on a ball that went just over the reach of Waleszonia in center. Nelson offered two intentional walks to load the bases. The sharp Gator defense turned a double play as sophomore Corrie Brooks (Christmas, Fla.) fielded a ground ball from Kelsey Hoffman. She flung the ball to junior catcher Kristina Hilberth (Dunedin, Fla.) at home who then hurled the ball to first baseman Gardiner for the second out. Jessica Everhart grounded out to Paculba at second to end the inning. Florida allowed only one more runner on base in the next two innings, securing the win.
Nelson pitched all nine innings for the Gators, throwing just over 100 pitches, giving up only two hits and striking out seven Hokie batters. Nelson’s record improves to 46-4 on the season. Tincher finished the game with 19 strikeouts, just one short of tying the WCWS for strikeouts in a game, which was 20 by Debbie Doom.
The extra inning game was the third consecutive for the Gators and their fourth in NCAA Tournament play this season.
Florida now advances to play UCLA at 7 p.m. ET. UCLA defeated Arizona 1-0 in its first game on Thursday, but fell last night to Arizona State, 4-0, to cross over the Florida’s half of the bracket. The game will air live on ESPN and ESPNHD. Beth Mowins, John Kruk and Jessica Mendoza will call the game from the broadcast booth, with Holly Rowe doing the field reporting. Florida radio broadcasters Steve Russell and Adam Schick will call the game on WRUF AM850 and www. GatorZone.com.