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Friday May 14, 1999Gators Fall To Alabama 4-1

COLUMBUS, GA

An up-and-down season highlighted by a strong finish and third place in the Southeastern Conference Eastern Division, which surpassed early expectations, came to an end Friday as Alabama defeated Florida 4-1 in Game 5 of the SEC Tournament at South Commons Stadium.

The Tide, seeded No. 3, (39-23) overcame No. 7 UF’s offense, which on paper was more productive. The Gators (34-29) out-hit UA 11-8, but left 11 stranded on the bases and didn’t score until the final inning.

"I thought we played them head-to-head," Head Coach Larry Ray said, "and I’m very proud of our team. But, this game is nothing more than cashing in on your opportunities, and unfortunately, we didn’t do that."

After yesterday’s 11-3 loss to Tennessee, in which two players combined for two-thirds of the team’s six hits, seven of today’s starters contributed offensively. Freshman Andrea Zimbardi (Green, Ohio/Green) led the way with a career-high 3-for-4 performance as UF’s designated player. Playing in her last contest, senior Jamie Hirschman (Sparks, Nev./Reed) went 2-for-3, and Lora Pinkerton (Phoenix, Ariz./Moon Valley) was 2-for-4 with a RBI double.

UA’s first baseman Ginger Jones got help from a call that ruled a first-inning hit to the temporary fence a home run. Right fielder Jackie Griffin (Lake Butler, Fla./Union County) made a leaping grab, but the ball dropped out of her glove as she fell backward and the fence went with her. Lead off hitter Kelly Kretschman also scored on the play. The Tide scored their other two runs on base hits in the fourth and seventh innings.

Beth Dieter (Orlando, Fla./Dr. Philips) took the loss for Florida. Dieter, who is only the second pitcher in Gator history to eclipse the 20-win mark (21-19), pitched a complete game, giving up eight hits, four earned runs and six walks, and struck out two batters.

UA’s Penny Cope improved to 13-12 , but allowed all 11 UF hits and its run, and struck out two. Freshman Shelley Laird recorded her third save on the season after coming in relief in the seventh when Nicole Kreipl (Huntington Beach, Fla./Huntington Beach) scored.

The Gators, who are ranked ninth in the NCAA South Region Poll, are a long shot for a NCAA Regional bid, but will find out Sunday, May 16 at 8 p.m. when the 48-team field is announced. They were hoping for a better outcome in the SEC Tournament to be a lock.

"We kind of turned on a little late," Hirschman said. "It was too late to get us where we needed to go. We started playing better ball, but it wasn’t enough . It’s really hard to swallow but I’m proud of this team and the effort they put forth. Nobody gave up and that’s all we could ask."

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