Florida beats UCLA, will host NCAA Super Regional

After losing its first game against UCLA on Sunday in walk-off fashion, the Florida softball team came out of the dugout swinging posting nine runs in the first inning resulting to an 11-3 win over last year’s national champion in five innings.

The Gators will take on Oregon in the second round of the 2011 NCAA Softball Championship in a best-of-three series at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium beginning Friday at 2 p.m. Games two and three of the series will be played on Saturday at Noon and 2:30 p.m., respectively.

Senior Aja Paculba said between games, the team really didn’t speak of the early loss before the next game, until she spoke up.

“We didn’t really talk about it,” Paculba said. “We just changed our uniforms and got something to eat, and it was kinda quiet and I just looked around and told everybody that I didn’t want this to be my last college game. And Kelsey (Bruder) chimed in and said she doesn’t want this to be the last time she puts a Gator uniform on so hopefully that motivated everybody but I knew I was gonna come out and do everything I could not to make it my last game.”

Whatever was in those peanut butter and jelly sandwiches worked as the Gators used two bunt singles, four traditional singles and a Tiffany DeFelice home run to put the Bruins away early.

Florida also stole six bases in the inning and 16 total on Sunday against UCLA’s bullpen catcher Grace Murray, who replaced UCLA’s second string catcher, freshman Alyssa Tiumalu. Tiumalu, who took over the starting job for UCLA since Feb. 13, injured her right knee in the first matchup between the Gators and UCLA on Saturday.

The Gators sent 13 batters to the plate against three UCLA pitchers as Florida scored all nine of its runs with only one out in the frame.

The nine-spot was all freshman pitcher Hannah Rogers needed the rest of the way as it looked like she was going to get hit hard again just like she did at the end of the first game.

After giving up five hits and the game to the Bruins in game one, Rogers got into trouble to start the game as she gave up a leadoff double to GiOnna DiSalvatore and loaded the bases by hitting two batters, but UF escaped with no damage.

Up 11-0 in the top of the 5th, it looked as if trouble was going to strike again as the Bruins plated three runs in the frame looking to extend the game bringing the lead within eight.

But Rogers struck out Amy Crawford, who notched the game-winning hit in the first game, to end the Bruins’ rocky season.

Both teams combined to hit six batters in the second game, and nine total on Sunday resulting in some tensions flying between the teams during the game.

UCLA head coach Kelly Inoyue-Perez accused Rogers of intentionally throwing at her players during postgame interviews, but Gators’ head coach Tim Walton quickly defended his star freshman during his time at the microphone saying there were no intentions at all to do so despite the allegations.

“I’m not going to fault her,” he said. “I mean, you’re getting beat. Your season is getting ready to be over. You’re trying to find any mental edge. I don’t feel sorry for her…. It wasn’t intentional, just nerves. Again, it was the game. It was the heat of the moment and if she’s going to hold it against us, I really don’t care.”

Inoyue-Perez also disliked the fact Florida still executed their running game plan with such a big lead in the game, and Walton defended his team’s actions once again saying there was no intention to run up the scoreboard out of disrespect.

“She can be upset all day long, I don’t even care,” Walton said. “It’s 11-3. I’m trying to win a ball game. I’m trying to move on. I know how good those hitters are. I don’t want them to have another at-bat. It’s out of respect to them that we were running – Out of respect.

“How many runs did they score on us in the College World Series? Think anybody was feeling sorry for us that night at the hotel when we lost? I don’t think so. So I don’t feel sorry for being here, I don’t feel sorry for shipping anybody home. I don’t feel sorry about nothing. I’m just really happy about my team. They have a lot of class. More class than you know.”

Walton said beating UCLA for the third time this season, especially since the Gators had only beaten the Bruins once before this season, is a landmark victory for the Florida softball program.

“I’m really proud of this moment for our program,” he said. “This is why I took the Florida job – so we could get ourselves to another level as a program. This is why I recruit these kinds of kids – kids of great caliber, great class and (they) really represent me and our institution very well.”

Gator Country reporter Safid Deen can be reached at Safid@GatorCountry.com. You can also follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/SafidDeenGC.