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Thursday February 23, 2012Gator Softball Splits Day One in California: Tops No. 16/14 Texas A&M, Edged by No. 5/7 Washington

Palm Springs, Calif.

The top-ranked Florida softball team split its opening-day slate at the Cathedral City Classic in Palm Springs, Calif., Thursday, downing No. 16/14 Texas A&M, 6-4, before falling, 5-2, to No. 5/7 Washington in the second game of the afternoon in a hard-fought, back-and-forth battle at the Big League Dreams Sports Complex in Cathedral City.

 

The Gators moved to 10-1 overall this season and 1-1 against Top-25 opposition on a hot day in Palm Springs, first putting up six runs on five hits against future Southeastern Conference institution Texas A&M. The Orange and Blue scattered its six runs in the third, fifth and sixth innings, limiting the Aggies to just one score through six innings before A&M got a rally going with three runs on five hits to close the gap in the top of the seventh.

 

Sophomore ace Hannah Rogers (Lake Wales, Fla.) (6-0) earned her sixth victory of the season with a complete-game effort in the circle against the Aggies, allowing four runs on nine hits – five of which came in the seventh – while walking two and fanning seven to give Florida its 10th victory of 2012.

 

On the other side, Mel Dumezich (4-2) also went the distance, but chalked up the loss for A&M, just her second of the season, after walking seven Gators and giving up six runs on five hits, while fanning six in 6.0 innings of work.

 

It took both teams nearly two frames to get adjusted offensively, but the Gators struck first on a junior Brittany Schutte (Fountain Valley, Calif.) sac fly with bases loaded to plate freshman Sami Fagan (Dunnellon, Fla.), who reached on a base hit, to bring UF ahead, 1-0, in the third.

 

After three up, three down for both squads in the fourth, and a one-hit effort for the Aggies in the top of the fifth, the Gators came out swinging for a two-hit, four-run scoring splurge in the bottom of the fifth. With S. Fagan leading off and the top of UF’s lineup set to hit, Florida quickly loaded the bags again with a base hit, hit-by-pitch for senior Michelle Moultrie (Jacksonville, Fla.) and walk for freshman Lauren Haeger (Peoria, Ariz.). Schutte earned her second RBI of the day with a fielder’s choice that left runners on the corners and took UF up, 2-0, with just one out.

 

Junior Kelsey Horton (Valrico, Fla.) knocked in UF’s next run on a RBI single to bring Moultrie home, while Horton then advanced to second on a A&M defensive miscue as Schutte was able to get home on the error for  two more Florida runs and the 4-0 advantage. A junior Ensley Gammel (Bakersfield, Calif.) sac fly plated the final Gator run of the inning as UF took a 5-1 lead to the sixth.

 

A solo shot for Sydney Shannon in the top of the sixth gave the Aggies their second run of the contest, while Moultrie went yard with a long ball of her own in the bottom of the second-to-last frame that took UF ahead, 6-1, heading to the final inning.

 

A feisty Texas A&M squad got a rally going in the seventh with a three-run, five-hit performance, but Rogers and the Gators prevailed with smart defense for a 6-4 win over their future league rival. S. Fagan led Florida against A&M with a 2-for-4 outing, while Moultrie, Schutte and Horton all tallied hits in the win. Schutte drove in a game-high two RBI, while S. Fagan and Moultrie scored two runs apiece. Haeger drew a game-high three walks, while sophomore Cheyenne Coyle (West Hills, Calif.) and freshman Katie Medina (Downey, Calif.) proved to have a dominating defensive presence in the infield at shortstop and second, respectively, with three assists apiece. Leadoff hitter Natalie Villarreal led Texas A&M at the plate with a 3-for-4 performance.

 

In the second game of UF’s challenging Thursday doubleheader, a tough Washington squad battled it out with UF, as the Huskies eventually took home the 5-2 victory, but not before both teams took turns with the lead. In the first meeting between UW and UF since the 2009 WCWS championship series, two veterans familiar with the rivalry helped lead their two teams offensively, as Moultrie was 2-for-4 for the Gators, while Washington leadoff hitter and senior Kimi Pohlman was 2-for-3 at the plate as the Huskies’ offensive force.

 

Medina and sophomore Kasey Fagan (Dunnellon, Fla.) were clutch for the Gators at the bottom of the lineup, producing the most when Florida needed it. Both underclassmen went 2-for-3 with one run, while Medina also tallied a RBI on the day and turned the lineup over twice to give UF its chances.

 

Haeger (3-1) earned the nod in the circle for the Orange and Blue against Washington, taking her first loss of the season after giving up three Husky hits, all five runs – three earned – and fanning five through 5.0 innings of work before moving to first base. Another freshman, Alyssa Bache (Clearwater, Fla.), came on for 2.0 innings of scoreless relief to finish out the afternoon, tallying two strikeouts in her third appearance as a Gator.

 

Pohlman started the charge for Washington with a leadoff triple, allowing UW to go up early, 1-0, on a Nikia Williams sac fly, but Haeger limited the first-inning scoring to just one run, forcing a pop up to end the first.

 

After Florida left one on in the first, Haeger rallied defensively by forcing three up, three down situations for the Huskies in both the second and third innings, allowing the Gators to take their first lead of the contest in the bottom of the third for the 2-1 advantage. Fagan led off with a single through the right side and Medina wasted no time with her first triple of the season, Florida’s fifth, to bring Fagan directly home and turn over the Gator lineup. S. Fagan then drove in Medina with a base hit of her own, but two pop ups and a caught-stealing halted UF’s scoring opportunities in the third.

 

A hitless, scoreless fourth for both teams brought up the fifth inning, where Washington tacked on two more runs to regain the 3-2 lead, first on a Gator defensive error, and then on a one-out Shawna Wright single to right field, resulting in a two-run, one-hit frame for the Huskies. Pinch hitter Taylor Smith then hit into a double play with Coyle at shortstop, who proceeded to tag second and throw to first for the third and final out of the inning.

 

Florida went down in order in the bottom of the fifth, bringing forth another two-run frame for Washington in the sixth. With the top of UW’s lineup set to bat, Pohlman led off with her second hit of the day and Victoria Hayward drew a walk before the Gators traded Haeger for Bache in the circle. With bases loaded, pitcher Kaitlin Inglesby plated the Huskies’ fourth run on a sac fly, while a Kylee Lahners two-out RBI single proved to be the fifth and final run for Washington before Bache popped Courtney Gano up for the third out of the sixth.

 

The Gators left two on in the bottom of the sixth before limiting the Huskies to two hits in the top of the seventh, catching one UW student-athlete stealing, to strand two Huskies and diminish any more scoring opportunities. Trailing, 5-2, heading to the bottom of the seventh, Florida had one last shot and Fagan and Medina made the most of the opportunity, rallying for one-out base hits, but a S. Fagan fielder’s choice and a Moultrie fly out gave the Gators their first loss of 2012.

 

Inglesby picked up her sixth victory of the season for Washington, working a complete-game effort, allowing just two runs on seven Gator hits, while fanning five and walking none.

 

The Gators will be back in action at 1 p.m. ET Friday for their first-ever meeting with BYU, before re-matching with No. 8 Texas at 3:30 p.m. (ET). The Gators and Longhorns last met in 2011 at the Cathedral City Classic in an extra-innings contest that saw Florida walk away with a 6-5, nine-inning victory from a Moultrie walk-off RBI single.

 

Follow the Gators live online with GameTracker by visiting www.GatorZone.com/softball, listen live locally and online to 104.9 FM, 105 The Game, with the call by Mike Gillespie and Megan Bush and follow Florida softball on Twitter @GatorZoneSBall for in-game updates.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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