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Freshman Kristen Butler was 3-for-3 with a home run and a walk in the 6-2 Gator win.

Thursday May 8, 2003Softball Defeats South Carolina to Advance

Plant City, FL

Freshman Kristen Butler was 3-for-3 with a home run and a walk in the 6-2 Gator win.

The No. 24/25 University of Florida softball team opened the 2003 SEC Tournament on Thursday by equaling its run total for its previous eight tournament games combined with a 6-2 win against No. 19/20 South Carolina. The fifth-seeded Gatorsí (39-21, 20-11 SEC) win against the fourth-seeded Gamecocks (37-17, 18-11 SEC) at Plant City Stadium was their first SEC Tournament win since 2000.

Freshman Kristen Butler paced the Gators at the plate by going 3-for-3 with a home run and two RBI. Sophomore Mandy Schuerman hit her 10th double of the season and had two RBI.

"This is the kind of power we expected Kristen to have all year, and itís coming at the right time," Florida coach Karen Johns said.

Florida junior pitcher Jenny Gladding (21-12), who was named First-Team All-SEC on Wednesday, struck out seven and allowed five hits in earning the complete-game win.

Although Florida struggled with South Carolina during the regular season and was swept in its three-game series in Columbia, S.C., the Gators took control of the game after trailing 2-0 heading into the third inning. Gladding surrendered only one hit and three base runners from the third inning through the gameís conclusion.

"I think they felt good about themselves at the plate," Johns said. "I didnít really get too worried down 2-0."

Trailing 2-0 in the third inning, Florida responded with four runs of its own off South Carolina starter Stacey Johnson (16-8).

Junior Mylin Prietoís single up the middle scored senior Jackie Marchetta for the Gatorsí first run. Gladding helped her own cause in the next at-bat with a single to right field that scored senior pinch runner Jennifer Brown, who was inserted after Butlerís single, from second.

One out later, Schuerman stroked a two-RBI double to the left-field fence that put Florida ahead 4-2. Prieto and sophomore pinch runner Brittani Houghton scored on the play.

Schuerman nearly scored from second on an errant throw home from the outfield but was tagged out at the plate.

Sound defense helped Florida preserve its lead in the bottom of the third inning. The Gators had a 1-2-3 inning, with the second out coming on a diving catch by junior Jenilee Garner in center field.

The Gators added to their lead in the fourth inning with Butlerís two-run home run to right field. Butlerís third home run of the season put Florida up 6-2 and also scored Garner, who reached on a walk.

Gators junior Stacy Rosen made a diving catch running in from left field for the gameís final out.

South Carolina took a 2-0 lead on Jodi Fittroís two-RBI double in the second inning.

The South Carolina outfielder lined the Gladding delivery to left field with the bases loaded and two outs to score Kim Evans and Nancy Crane. Schuerman was shaken up on the play when the ball bounced off the grass and hit her in the face as she dove for it in left field, but she remained in the game.

The Gators improved to 7-12 all-time in SEC Tournament play.

Florida returns to action Friday night to take on the winner of the Georgia vs. Mississippi State game, which had not been completed at the time of this release. First pitch is scheduled for 8 p.m. at Plant City Stadium.



















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