Gator softball sweeps Auburn

The No. 2 University of Florida softball team (56-2, 24-1 SEC) set two more school records as they completed the series sweep of Auburn (34-19,
10-14, SEC) on Sunday afternoon at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium. In the 10-1, five inning win the team set a new school record for home runs in a season with 50 and junior pitcher Stacey Nelson (Los Alamitos, Calif.) recorded her 35th win in the circle, besting her own school record.

Florida hit two home runs in the game, one by junior Kim Waleszonia (Fontana, Calif.) to lead off the first inning and one by junior Ali Gardiner (Waccabuc, N. Y.) in the third. Waleszonia’s home run tied the school record of 49, set by the 2007 squad, while Gardiner’s set the new standard.

Home runs were not the only order of the day for the Florida offense, as the team tallied 11 hits on the day, including six for extra bases. Three Gators finished the day with perfect batting averages. Sophomore Francesca Enea (Woodland Hills, Calif.) finished the day 3-for-3 with a double, a run scored and an RBI. Junior Kristina Hilberth (Dunedin, Fla.) and freshman Aja Paculba (Wildomar, Calif.) each finished 2-for-2. Paculba hit a double, scored three runs and drove in two RBI, while Hilberth hit a triple, scored one run and drove in a team high three RBI.

Nelson held Auburn to only two hits, while striking out seven batters to improve to a school record 35-2 on the season. Her 35 wins tops her own school record of 34, set last season with the win over Texas A&M in the second game of Super Regional play.

Though Auburn got on board first, Florida came back to score at least two runs in every offensive inning except the fourth. Waleszonia’s home run, her first of the season, to lead off the Gator half of the first set the tone for the game. Paculba and Gardiner drew back-to-back walks. An Enea base hit loaded the bases. With one out, freshman Tiffany DeFelice (Coral Springs, Fla.) hit a sacrifice fly to score Paculba for the 2-1 Gator lead. Freshman Megan Bush (Anaheim Hills, Calif.) reached on an error to again load the bases. Hilberth’s bases clearing triple made the Gator lead 5-1. Angel Brunner entered the game to replace Auburn starter Lauren Schmalz in the circle to get the final out of the inning.

Florida started at the top of the order again in the bottom of the second. With one out, Paculba knocked her 10th double of the season to left center. Gardiner reached on a fielder’s choice that left both runners safe. Enea’s base hit through the left side scored Paculba. A ground out moved both runners into scoring position. DeFelice earned her second RBI of the day as she plated Gardiner with a base hit.

The third inning saw three more runs cross the plate and put the Gators in the lead by nine runs. Hilberth led off the inning with a base hit to center. She moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by sophomore Corrie Brooks (Christmas, Fla.) and on to third on a ground out by Waleszonia. Paculba’s single up the middle plated Hilberth for the 8-1 lead. Gardiner’s home run tipped off the very top of the fence in center field for the final two runs of the game to give Florida the 10-1 victory.

Florida’s final hit of the game came in the fourth as junior Le-Net Franklin (Belton, Texas) laced a double to left center for her first extra base hit of the season.

Auburn’s only run came in the top of the first. Myesha Finney led off with an infield base hit and moved to second on a Kyndall White sacrifice. With two outs, Alicia Hunolt singled down the right field line to score Finney.

With one out in the top of the fifth, head coach Tim Walton called senior Mary Ratliff (Mt. Sterling, Ky.) to the dug out, as she was playing in her final regular season home game. Ratliff received a standing ovation from her teammates and all the Gator fans.

Florida plays its final regular season games next week as it travels to Knoxville, Tenn. to face the Tennessee Volunteers. Saturday’s doubleheader is slated for 1 p. m. The first gawill air live on Cox Sports Television. Please contact your local cable provider for channel information.