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Friday May 27, 2011Schutte's Bat Comes Alive At The Right Time, Putting Gators Closer To Return Trip To College World Series

Scott Carter
By SCOTT CARTER
GatorZone.com Senior Writer

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – If the guy driving the black SUV had stayed on Hull Road instead of turning onto Museum Road, his driver’s side mirror would still be intact.

But he would have never made it onto “SportsCenter” or YouTube thanks to a towering foul ball by Gators outfielder Brittany Schutte, so maybe a broken mirror isn’t so bad after all.

“Sorry” was Schutte’s message to the guy after Florida’s impressive 9-1 run-rule win over Oregon on Friday afternoon in the first game of the Gainesville Super Regional.

It’s not often that a foul ball gets so much attention, but Schutte’s “Shot Heard ‘Round UF” had the crowd buzzing for a moment. Her powerful swing nearly stayed fair for a home run down the right-field line.

However, it curled foul and sailed over the trees beyond the outfield wall, and then took a hard bounce on Museum Drive and loudly introduced itself to the black SUV.

The foul ball seemed to revive a crowd that had waited nearly two hours in stifling heat due to a weather delay.

“I don’t think anyone [on our team] saw it,’’ Gators coach Tim Walton said. “I saw it. I saw the car stop, then the guy stop, and then the cop come out.’’

The driver pulled over to the side of the road once he realized what had happened and appeared a little upset at the damage as he talked with a couple of policemen who came over to survey the damage.

Maybe it was his dad’s car. It could have been his dad’s swing considering how far Schutte hit the ball.

But other than for the ball-hits-car story line, the swing didn’t count for anything else.

“Once it was foul I just had to let it go and wait on the next pitch,’’ Schutte said.

Schutte changed that a few moments later when she drilled another pitch from Oregon pitcher Jessica Moore high and deep over the wall in right-center field – in the same direction as where the driver stopped.

This one didn’t carry far enough to beat up the guy’s SUV again, but Schutte’s two-run homer did plenty of damage to the Ducks, putting the Gators up 3-0 in the first inning.

“The ball sounded a little different coming off her bat today,’’ Walton said. “It was impressive.’’

He can say that again.

With the score still 3-1 in the third, Schutte stepped to the plate again with Kelsey Bruder on base. This time, Schutte swung at a pitch low and toward the outside of the plate. The ball finally returned to earth over the wall in left field, giving Schutte her second two-run homer of the game and Florida a commanding 5-1 lead.

Schutte walked her third time up – launching another impressive foul ball toward right field during the at-bat – and later scored in the Gators’ three-run fifth inning that ended the game due to the run-rule.

Schutte finished 2-for-2 with two home runs, four RBIs, three runs, two towering foul balls and one hit car.

Not a bad day at the office for a player who entered the game hitting .182 (2-for-11) with no homers and two RBIs in the postseason.

The Gators’ clean-up hitter remained modest after what she called “one of my best games.’’

She can say that again.

“In the postseason, so far I’ve been struggling,’’ she said. “It definitely helped me a little bit to have a better game.’’

Schutte’s confidence grew immensely after the first at-bat against Moore, who came into the game with a 24-9 record and 1.59 ERA. In 198 innings, Moore had allowed just 11 home runs – or one every 18 innings.

She served up two to Schutte in three innings.

“I knew I was seeing her well,’’ Schutte said.

Oregon coach Mike White was asked if he considered telling Moore to pitch around Schutte in her second at-bat considering how hard she hit Moore her first time up.

“They’ve got [Megan] Bush after her, and she has got 20-some home runs,’’ White said. “It’s like pick your poison. A couple of those pitches were pretty fat. Today was her day.’’

The teams return to Pressly Stadium for Game 2 of the best-of-three Super Regional on Saturday at noon. White said to expect Moore and the rest of the Ducks’ pitching staff to adjust when Schutte steps to the plate.

Schutte’s two home runs on Friday give her 19 on the season, one shy of Bush for the team lead. It was her third multi-homer game.

Despite her recent power outage, Walton kept writing Schutte’s name in the No. 4 spot in the line. He knows No. 44’s bat can change a game at any time.

“It’s the law of averages,’’ Walton said. “She is bound to run into a couple again. She’s just dialed in. It was nice to see her get a hit early to build her confidence.’’

Schutte’s big game moved the Gators a game closer to their fourth consecutive trip to the College World Series. If the sophomore slugger from Mountain Valley, Calif., can continue to swing like that, the Gators could go as far as those two home runs Schutte hit Saturday.

“It’s awesome. The better she hits the better pitches I’ll see,’’ said Bruder said. “If she can continue to do that, I might get to see a couple more. As long as Brittany brings it again tomorrow, I think we’ll be OK.’’

Those driving on Museum Road might not be as lucky.

 

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