Saturday May 9, 2009No. 1 Softball Takes Down No. 3 Alabama for Second Straight SEC Tournament Championship
No. 1/1 University of Florida won its second straight Southeastern Conference Tournament Championship with an 8-5 win over No. 5/3 Alabama. Led by sophomore Kelsey Bruder’s (Corona, Calif.) 2-for-3 performance with three RBI, the Gators (55-3) repeated last year’s feat of winning the regular-season and tournament titles.
Bruder, sophomore Aja Paculba (Wildomar, Calif.), junior Corrie Brooks (Christmas, Fla.) and senior Kristina Hilberth (Dunedin, Fla.) were named to the All-Tournament Team. Hilberth earned Tournament MVP with three hits and an RBI while catching all three games behind the plate. She caught one stealing and did not allow a swipe under her watch.
Senior Stacey Nelson (Los Alamitos, Calif.) earned her 35th win, striking out eight and allowing five hits. Kelsi Dunne (24-3) took the loss for the Crimson Tide (47-9).
The Tide struck first, tallying two in its first at bat. With one down, Alabama loaded the bases with two walks and a single. Nelson hit Ashley Holcombe to bring in the first run of the game. Charlotte Morgan, who singled through the left side, crossed the plate on a wild pitch to give Bama a 2-0 lead.
Sophomore Megan Bush (Anaheim Hills, Calif.) put the Gators on top with her second grand slam of the season in the bottom of the first. With one down, the Gators loaded the bases when Paculba and junior Francesca Enea (Woodland Hills, Calif.) were hit by Dunne and senior Ali Gardiner (Waccabuc, N.Y.) walked on four straight pitches. Bruder drew a walk on a 3-1 count to give the Gators a run. With two outs, Bush nailed the 16th pitch of her at bat over the left-field wall to give UF a 5-2 lead. It was the only hit of the inning.
Bush’s grand slam marked the second against Alabama in the SEC Championship Game in two years. Current student coach Mary Ratliff gave the Gators a 4-1 lead in the sixth inning against Dunne with her own grand slam, her second against Alabama in the ’08 season.
Florida added two more in the fourth as Paculba led off the inning with a triple to right field. Sophomore Tiffany DeFelice (Coral Springs, Fla.) laid down a sacrifice bunt to bring her teammate home on a safety squeeze. Enea was hit for a third time and senior Brooke Johnson (Lakeland, Fla.) came in to pinch run. Bruder nailed a two-out double to left center to drive Johnson in and give the Gators a 7-2 lead.
In the top of the fifth Morgan, the 2009 SEC Player of the Year, tallied her ninth home run to cut the lead to four. It was the first homer Nelson gave up this season. The righty went 254.2 innings between home runs allowed.
The Gators tallied another run in the sixth increasing their lead to 8-3. DeFelice reached on a throwing error by shortstop Kellie Eubanks and moved to second when Enea drew a walk. Bruder singled up the middle to score freshman Lauren Heil (Cooper City, Fla.), who came in to pinch run for DeFelice.
The Tide tried to close the gap in the seventh. Lauren Parker singled to right to start the inning. Morgan reached on an error and both runners moved into scoring position on a wild pitch. Cassandra Reilly-Boccia walked to load the bases. Kendall Dawson hit a blooper back to the mound to score Parker and Amana Locke grounded out to third, but Morgan scored on an attempt to catch Reilly-Boccia off the bag at second. After allowing two runs to make it a three-run game, Nelson got Larsen swinging to end the game and give the Gators the Championship.