OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. – In Florida head softball coach Tim Walton’s way of thinking, it wasn’t the illegal pitches that did in his Gators Thursday in their opening game of the Women’s College World Series against UCLA.
No, it was too many legal ones that the Bruins hit over the fences and into the gaps that burned Florida in a 16-3 loss to UCLA that was ended by the mercy rule after six innings.
The Bruins (46-11) broke the WCWS record for runs scored in a game – 14 by Alabama a year ago in a 14-0 victory over Arizona.
It was the 24th time this season that UCLA has run-ruled the opposition. That it came against an offensive juggernaut like Florida, which entered the game with a season-best 105 home runs, was even more eye-opening.
It also was the first time the Gators have been run-ruled since March 3, 2007 when they lost 10-2. That opponent? UCLA.
“It’s a bummer to be sitting up here getting run-ruled in the College World Series,” Walton said. “But at least we are here.”
True, but now Florida (48-9) must find a way to stay here. With the loss, the Gators fall into the losers’ bracket and face elimination with every game they play. After a day off Friday, Florida returns to ASA Hall of Fame Stadium Saturday at 12 p.m. to play Missouri (51-12), which dropped the tournament opener to Hawaii, 3-2. If the Gators win that one, they return Saturday night at 7 to play the loser of the winners’ bracket game Friday night at 7 between UCLA and Hawaii.
And if the Gators can survive that, they would need to win twice on Sunday, beating the Hawaii-UCLA winner twice to get into the best-of-three championship series that begins Monday.
“Next to impossible … it’s difficult,” were two ways Walton described the road his team now must travel to just reach the championship series as the Gators did last year, only to lose twice to Washington and ASA player of the year Danielle Lawrie.
“It’s really difficult, you know, especially the way it is set up and the way the format is,” Walton continued. “We’ve faced adversity. I think we have only lost 19 games in the last three years. So I think we will find a way to figure some things out.”
Of immediate concern is finding a way to overcome the illegal pitches that have haunted his pitching staff much of the season and reared their ugly head Thursday. Florida was called for six illegal pitches – four by starting junior right-hander Stephanie Brombacher (34-7, 2.1 innings, 3 hits, 2 walks, 5 earned runs) and two by freshman right-hander Ensley Gammel (2.2 innings, 5 hits, 4 walks, 7 runs-6 earned).
“I’ve known it’s been a problem,” said Brombacher. “I thought I had taken care of it. I’m doing the best I can.”
Neither pitcher could adjust to the calls, and the Bruins took advantage, pounding out 11 hits, including five doubles and three home runs. That’s eight extra-base hits or one more hit than Florida had the entire game. Catcher Tiffany DeFelice, who had a bases-clearing double (Florida’s only extra-base hit) in the first inning, and Brittany Schutte each had two hits to lead the Florida attack.
DeFelice’s take on the illegal pitches? “I mean it is frustrating, but the more you let it eat at you the more you dig yourself into your own hole,” she said. “You just have to try to brush it off the best you can.”
Andrea Harrison had a pair of 3-run home runs for UCLA, while Megan Langenfeld, the runner-up to Lawrie as player of the year, went 4-for-4 and drove in four runs, including the final two Bruins run with a home run in a 9-run sixth inning.
Harrison’s first 3-run homer in the first inning, an opposite-field shot to left, gave the Bruins an early lead. But Florida got the three runs back in the bottom of the second when DeFelice belted a bases-clearing double to left center off starting pitcher Aleah Macon.
Langenfeld replaced Macon and went the final 4.2 innings to pick up her 12th victory in 13 outings this season, allowing just four hits while striking out three.
Tied 3-3, UCLA got three runs off Brombacher and Gammel to open up a 6-3. Brombacher exited after Langenfeld had an RBI double to put UCLA up 4-3 lead, and Gammel promptly was called for throwing an illegal pitch, sending Langenfeld to third. Langenfeld scored on the first of two doubles by Samantha Camuso and an another illegal pitch by Gammel brought home Dani Yudin.
Langenfeld had an RBI single in the fourth to put the Bruins up 7-3.
The first three of UCLA’s game-ending nine runs in the sixth inning came home on Harrison’s second homer of the game to left, and Walton brought in Erin Schuppert, who would allow four runs on three hits, including a 2-run homer by Langenfeld, who put the Gators down quietly in the bottom of the sixth.
“UCLA is a heck of a ball club and they played a heck of a game and they did a great job,” Walton saluted. “I hate for us to deflect away from a team that played their butts off and beat us. I don’t want to lose that. I think everybody can argue about the illegal pitches and argue about the rules, all of that stuff. But you still have a team that beat another team. Whether the pitches were defective or not, who cares at this point in time? That’s the rules committee’s job.”
The Gators, after all, have more important things to worry about—like survival.
WOMEN’S COLLEGE WORLD SERIES / ASA Hall of Fame Stadium / Oklahoma City, Okla. / Thursday-Sunday, June 3-6, 2010 / Double-elimination
Thursday, June 3
Game 1: (16) Hawaii 3, (9) Missouri 2
Game 2: (5) UCLA 16, (4) Florida 3 (6 innings)
Friday, June 4
Game 5: (16) Hawaii (50-14) vs. (5) UCLA (46-11), 7 p.m. (ESPN)
Saturday, June 5
Game 7: (9) Missouri (51-12) vs. (4) Florida (48-9), 12 p.m. (ESPN2) Loser eliminated
Game 9: Loser Game 5 vs. Winner Game 7, 7 p.m. (ESPN) Loser eliminated
Sunday, June 6
Game 11: Winner Game 5 vs. Winner Game 9, 1 p.m. (ESPN) Winner (if unbeaten) to Championship Series; Loser eliminated
Game 13 (if necessary): Winner Game 11 vs. Loser Game 11 (if Loser Game 11 has one loss), 7 p.m. (ESPN2) Winner to Championship Series; Loser eliminated
Thursday, June 3
Game 3: (15) Tennessee 9, (10) Arizona 0 (5 innings)
Game 4: (6) Georgia 6, (3) Washington 3
Friday, June 4
Game 6: (15) Tennesse (48-13) vs. (6) Georgia (49-11), 9 p.m. (ESPN)
Saturday, June 5
Game 8: (10) Arizona (48-12) vs. (3) Washington (50-8), 2:30 p.m. (ESPN2) Loser eliminated
Game 10: Loser Game 6 vs. Winner Game 8, 9 p.m. (ESPN) Loser eliminated
Sunday, June 6
Game 12: Winner Game 6 vs. Winner Game 10, 3 p.m. (ESPN) Winner (if unbeaten) to Championship Series; Loser eliminated
Game 14 (if necessary): Winner Game 12 vs. Loser Game 12 (if Loser Game 12 has one loss), 9 p.m. (ESPN2) Winner to Championship Series; Loser eliminated
CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES / Monday-Wednesday, June 7-9, 2010 / Best-of-3 series
Monday, June 7
Game 1: Bracket 1 winner vs. Bracket 2 winner, 8 p.m. (ESPN2)
Tuesday, June 8
Game 2: Bracket 1 winner vs. Bracket 2 winner, 8 p.m. (ESPN2)
Wednesday, June 9
Game 3 (if necessary): Bracket 1 winner vs. Bracket 2 winner, 8 p.m. (ESPN2)