Gator softball takes two wins

The No. 7 University of Florida Softball team (16-0) hit six home runs in its first two games of the Aquafina Invitational to defeat Gardner-Webb (5-4), 15-1, and North Florida (7-6), 3-0. The Gator offense tallied 21 hits on the night, 10 of which were for extra bases.

Four different Gators led the team with three hits on the night. Junior Kristina Hilberth (Dunedin, Fla.) went 3-for-5 with a team-leading four runs scored. Freshman Tiffany DeFelice (Coral Springs, Fla.) hit 3-for-6 with three home runs, the first three of her collegiate career. Senior Mary Ratliff (Mt. Sterling, Ky.) went 3-for-7 with a team-leading five RBI on the night. Freshman Megan Bush (Anaheim Hills, Calif.) also had a three hit performance, going 3-for6 with the second home run of her career. 

Four walks and a hit put the Gators up 3-0 in the top of the first against Gardner-Webb. Juniors Kim Waleszonia (Fontana, Calif.) and Hilberth and freshman Aja Paculba (Wildomar, Calif.) drew three consecutive walks from Gardner-Webb starter Christine Murray. Waleszonia scored on a wild pitch. Ratliff hit a two-out base hit to right center to score Hilberth and Paculba for the 3-0 lead.

The Gators added five more runs in the second. With one out, Waleszonia reached first on a bunt single. Hilberth followed with a base hit through the left side. Paculba knocked a double to left to score Waleszonia. Sophomore Francesca Enea (Woodland Hills, Calif.) hit a three-run home run, her fifth of the season, to give Florida the 7-0 advantage. Alison Coffey came in to replace Murray in the circle. Junior Ali Gardiner (Waccabuc, N.Y.) was hit by a pitch. Freshman Ami Austin

(Ormond Beach, Fla.) came in to pinch run for Gardiner at first. Austin worked quickly, stealing second and advanced to third following a single by Ratliff. A wild pitch by Coffey allowed Austin to score, extending the Gator’s lead to 8-0.

Gardner-Webb’s Jessica Williams hit a solo homerun in the bottom of the second putting the Bulldogs on the scoreboard 8-1. It was the first home run given up by the Gator pitching staff this season

Hilberth was first on base for the Gators in the third inning following three straight balls thrown by Coffey. Hilberth scored from first on a double to right field by Paculba. A double play ended the inning with the Gators ahead 9-1.

After a scoreless fourth inning by both teams, the Gators showcased their best inning of the night with six runs. Waleszonia was first to bat and walked on four-straight pitches. She advanced to second on a single to left field by Hilberth. Paculba was next to bat, walking on four straight pitches, loading the bases. Gardiner doubled to center field scoring Hilberth and Waleszonia and extending her career-long hit streak to nine games. The impressive inning for the Gators continued with back-to-back homeruns. Ratliff hit a three-run shot, followed by a solo homerun by freshman catcher Tiffany DeFelice (Coral Springs, Fla.) giving the Gators a 15-1 lead.

Freshman pitcher Stephanie Brombacher (Pembroke Pines, Fla.) improved her record to 6-0 as she struck out four batters and did not allow a walk in the game.

In the second game of the day, the Gators defeated North Florida, 3-0, with all of its runs coming off solo homeruns.

The game remained scoreless until the bottom of the fourth when DeFelice crushed her first of two home runs in the game, launching a towering solo shot down the left field line. Bush hit the second home run of that inning, extending the Gators’ lead 2-0.

DeFelice hit her second homerun of the game in the sixth inning, driving the ball deep over the center field wall to give the Gators a 3-0 lead.

Junior Stacey Nelson (Los Alamitos, Calif.) extended her scoreless innings streak to 46.2 innings with the complete game shutout. She allowed only three base runners in the game, giving up only one hit, one walk and hitting one North Florida batter. She struck out 10 for her second consecutive double digit strikeout game and her fiftThe Aquafina Invitational continues on Saturday, Feb. 23 with North Florida taking on Gardner-Webb at 10 a.m. and the Gators facing Notre Dame at 12:15 p.m., followed by bracket play beginning at 2:30. Due to road races around the Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium area, fans will not be able to access the field from 34th Street afternoon. Fans need to come on campus via 23rd Street from Archer Road to Museum Road and park in the Microbiology Building across the street from center field, or via Surge Road from Archer Road and turn left to the Phillips Center parking garage..