Florida began the NCAA Tournament with a 7-1 win over the Hampton Pirates at Katie Seashole Presly Stadium on Friday night. It was a sell out crowd of 1,421 on a hot Friday night in Gainesville as Gator fans packed the stands to watch No. 2 seed Florida begin their quest for a championship.
Pitcher Alyssa Bache (9-0) and the rest of the Gator team had to shake off some early jitters, after the Pirates struck first in the top of the first with an unearned run following an uncharacteristic throwing error by Katie Medina. Bache looked calm and collected in her first post season start, allowing only two hits all day after not starting a game since facing Florida State on April 17th.
Walton was a proud coach after the game when talking about the sophomore pitcher, “I’m proud of Alyssa, first postseason start. To go out there and handle herself, she took a no hitter into the fourth and really did a good job.” Bache had a big grin as well after her dominant performance, “I was really excited because it’s my first post season game as a sophomore and I was just really excited to go out and play and help my team out anyway I could.”
Neither team managed to record a hit, until Stephanie Tofft hit a shallow shot to right field to load the bases for the Lady Gators with no outs in the bottom of the third. That seemed to be just the spark the team needed as Lauren Haeger hit a shot to center field on the next pitch to tie the game at one.
A Taylor Schwarz pop out, followed by hits from Kelsey Horton and Briana Little, gave the Gators a 4-1 lead to close out the bottom of the third. Horton highlighted her team’s third inning surge afterwards, “First couple batters did a really good job leading us off…we did a really good job getting the momentum going and we just battled.”
From there, the Lady Gators looked the part of the No. 2 seed that went 52-7 during the season and captured both the SEC regular season and tournament titles. Kelsey Horton and Taylore Fuller hit a pair of homeruns to add insurance runs in the bottom of the fifth to make it 6-1 Florida. Lauren Haeger would drive one final run in for the Gators in the bottom of the sixth to make it 7-1. Alyssa Bache recorded the final three outs to make it a final, as the Gators would go on to win their first game of the 2013 NCAA Softball Championships.
Florida will face the same USF Bulls that eliminated the Gators in 2012 on Saturday at 1pm. USF won their first game over Georgia Southern Friday afternoon by a score of 1-0. The Bulls are not an offensive powerhouse but play solid defense behind one of the best pitchers in the country in Sarah Nevins.
“She’s really good, she’s one of the best pitchers in the country. We know that, they know that, she’s been cruising since the time we faced them here,” Florida coach Tim Walton said about facing the USF ace tomorrow. “We just gotta be able to go out there and execute and put good swings on good pitches. Really find a good way to play within ourselves and not get caught up in the moment.”
The softball regional is a double elimination format with regional action set to continue through the weekend before wrapping up on Sunday. Stay with GatorCountry.com all weekend as we bring you all the latest action from the NCAA Gainesville softball regional.