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Photo by Jason Roberts, Envision Sports Media

Wednesday March 28, 2012No. 4 Softball Edged, 4-1, by No. 21 USF in Non-Conference Clash Wednesday

Gainesville, Fla.

Photo by Jason Roberts, Envision Sports Media

Despite pounding out six hits as a team, led by freshman Bailey Castro’s (Pembroke Pines, Fla.) 2-for-3 performance Wednesday, the No. 4 Florida softball squad dropped just its third game of the season, falling 4-1 to No. 21 USF in a mid-week, non-conference match up in front of 1,089 Gator fans at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium. For the second time this season, the two squads met as Florida out-lasted USF, 3-2, in eight innings Feb. 12 in season-opening tournament action in Tampa.

 

A sharper USF squad connected for eight hits, capitalized on two Gator defensive miscues and rallied behind ace Sara Nevins, who owned the nation’s best ERA (0.55) entering the match-up, to snap Florida’s 16-game home win streak. The Bulls jumped on top of the Gators from the get-go, putting up two quick runs in the first inning, while following with two in the third for their four overall to improve to 30-5 on the campaign. The Gators moved to 29-3 overall and are now 4-3 on the season against Top-25 competition.

 

For the 12th time this season, Florida freshman Lauren Haeger (Peoria, Ariz.) earned the nod in the circle, working her sixth complete contest of the year. Haeger fanned four, but walked five and gave up two earned runs on eight USF hits, shouldering her second loss of the season (9-2).

 

Like Haeger, Nevins (17-2) went the distance, walking three and retiring three Gators by strikeout. Nevins gave up two hits to Castro, who tallied her first multiple-hit game donning a Gator uniform, while Haeger knocked in UF’s sole run on a long ball in the fourth. Juniors Ensley Gammel (Bakersfield, Calif.), Sam Holle (Tampa, Fla.) and Kelsey Horton (Valrico, Fla.) had one hit apiece.

 

In the defensive battle Wednesday, both teams left crucial runners on base, as the Gators stranded eight, while USF left 12 Bulls on. Florida used a strong defensive play to keep the Bulls from extending the lead in the sixth inning. With one out and two runners in scoring position in the top of the stanza, Horton fielded a bunt that dropped right in front of the dish and made a heads-up play to tag D’Anna Devine, who tried to score from third on the play, at home.

 

Likewise, the Bulls turned two double plays early to halt UF’s offensive rhythm, but Florida countered by catching Devine on the base path trying to swipe second, showing some defensive prowess of its own early.

 

South Florida used RBI from Kourtney Salvarola, Janine Richardson and Laura Fountain, capitalizing on 2-for-3 efforts from Devine and sophomore Stephanie Medina to down Florida for the first time since April 13, 2005, ending UF’s 11-game winning streak over the Bulls.

 

On deck for the Gators is a three-game road swing at SEC East rival No. 9/10 Georgia. The series begins Friday at 8 p.m. in Athens, Ga., at Jack Turner Stadium. Florida will make its 2012 national television debut on ESPNU in the series opener with Georgia Friday, as Beth Mowins, Jennie Finch Daigle and Michele Smith call the action from Athens. Sunday’s series finale with the Bulldogs will air live on Fox Sports South in the Atlanta market and on Fox Sports Florida statewide, with Dave Neal and Cheri Kempf.

 

The series against the Bulldogs will be a highly anticipated match-up, as the Gators will be looking to avenge a Dawg sweep in Gainesville last season. For the first time since 2006, UGA swept UF, with UF holding an eight-game win streak between the 2006 and 2011 Georgia sweeps. Last time out in Athens in 2008, Florida took three from Georgia, 5-0, 9-5, 5-2.

 

 

 

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