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Monday June 2, 2008Softball Ends Historic Season

Oklahoma City, OK

The University of Florida Softball team ended a historic season with a 1-0 loss in nine innings to Texas A&M in a second Women’s College World Series semifinal game on Sunday night in Oklahoma City.

 

Florida finished the season with a 70-5 record on the season and were the first team in NCAA history to record 70 wins in a season. Each of Florida’s losses were by only one run, four of them 1-0 losses, and opponents scored only seven runs against the Gators in losses. In addition to the NCAA record, the team set many single season school records in almost every hitting, pitching and fielding category. Several Gator players also set individual single season and records, including long-standing records for season RBI, season runs scored and career stolen bases and shutouts. The Gators also had a school record five players earn All-America honors.

 

The 2008 Gators were also the first team in school history to reach the Women’s College World Series and finished 3-2 in their first appearance, fighting back through the losers bracket to play in the semifinals.  

 

“I want to say what a heck of a season the Florida Gators had,” Head Coach Tim Walton said. “It’s obviously a huge letdown to lose, but the way we win with class and lose with class and the way we display our actions and emotions on the field make me very proud to be the coach.  It’s tough to lose, but I don’t know of any other team that has gone or ever will go 70-5.  It’s unbelievable.”

 

The final game of the season came down to the ninth inning. With two outs, Macie Morrow knocked a hit through the right side. Kelsey Spittler drove a triple down the right field line, scoring Morrow for the 1-0 lead. Spittler was thrown out at third after running past the base for the last out of the inning, but the damage had already been done.

 

The Gators had hope in their final at bat as junior Ali Gardiner (Waccabuc, N.Y.) ripped her second hit of the game through the left side to lead off the inning. Sophomore Corrie Brooks (Christmas, Fla.) added a base hit to right, but was put out on a double play in the next at bat. The final out was a pop up, giving the Aggies the win and ending Florida’s season.

 

Rhiannon Kliesing opened the game with a base hit through the right side for Texas A&M. A sacrifice bunt by Natalie Villarreal moved her to second. A walk to Megan Gibson from Florida junior pitcher Stacey Nelson (Los Alamitos , Calif.) put runners at first and second. Jamie Hinshaw was safe on a fielder’s choice as the Gator defense threw out Gibson at second, leaving runners on the corners. Holly Ridley grounded out to Paculba at second to end the inning.

 

The Aggies again led off the second inning with a hit, this one by Jami Lobpries. Erin Glasco reached on a fielder’s choice that found both runners safe. The tough Gator defense retired the next three batters in order, again halting the Aggie effort.

 

Florida got its first hit of the game to lead off its half of the second. Gardiner ripped a base hit through the right side. She was thrown out at second on the fielder’s choice play that left Brooks safe at first. Brooks advanced to second on a ground out to second by senior Mary Ratliff (Mt. Sterling, Ky.), but the inning would end as Gibson struck out the last Gator batter of the inning.

 

The Gator defense retired 12 straight Aggie batters before Gibson put a base hit in right with one out in the top of the sixth. Florida’s defense went right back to business though, putting out the next two batters.

 

Florida strung together the first consecutive hits in the bottom of the sixth. With one out junior Kristina Hilberth (Dunedin, Fla.) slapped a base hit to left with one out. Junior Kim Waleszonia (Fontana, Calif.) got her first hit of the game, a base hit through the left side. Freshman Aja Paculba (Wildomar, Calif.) got the third Gator hit of the inning to load the bases. Sophomore Francesca Enea (Woodland Hills, Calif.) reached on a fielder’s choice as Hilberth was thrown out at the plate for the second out of the inning. Florida’s last batter flew out to left to end the inning and leave three runners stranded.

 

The top of the seventh brought some tense moments as Nelson walked two batters and had runners at first and second with only one out. The Gators picked off the lead runner with a rare three to five put out at third on a fielder’s choice play for the second out of the inning. Kliesing grounded out to Paculba to end the A&M threat.

 

Each team put a runner on in the eighth, but was not able to push her across the plate.

 

Nelson ends her season with a 47-5 record and a 0.75 ERA, the best single season ERA in school history. Gibson earned the win for the Aggies improving to 41-2 on the season going into the championship series.

 

“This team has a lot of heart and a lot of young girls with the drive to play,” Nelson said. “We play best when we don’t feel that that the pressure is on us and when we are just swinging away and having fun.  We were definitely just having fun and winning the past few days.  We didn’t win a national championship, but this is Florida’s first trip to the World Series and we have done a lot of great things this season.  This has been a team to remember.  Everyone just comes together and plays.” 

 

 

 

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