Gators softball sweeps Longwood

The No. 22 Florida softball team swept both games of the doubleheader against Longwood (19-17) today at the Florida Softball Stadium, improving to 36-18 on the season. The Gators were led by two stellar pitching performances from sophomore Stacey Nelson (Los Alamitos, Calif.) and senior Stacey Stevens (Gainesville, Fla.).

Nelson recorded nine strikeouts and surrendered one run on two hits. Stevens struck out eight while giving up one run on four hits.

The Florida bats were hot this afternoon with the Gators collecting 19 hits on the day. Offensively, the Gators were led by sophomore Ali Gardiner (Waccabuc, NY) who went 3-for-8 with five RBI, and sophomore Kim Waleszonia (Fontana, Calif.) who went 3-for-7 with three runs scored. Senior Melissa Zick (Tampa, Fla.) hit her team leading seventh homerun of the season, and freshman Corrie Brooks (Christmas, Fla.) had a pair of doubles for the Gators.

In the first game, Florida got on the board in the bottom of the first inning when Zick hit a groundball to the shortstop with the bases loaded to bring home senior Lauren Roussell (Cerritos, Calif).

Florida scored again in the bottom of the third to take a 2-0 lead. Waleszonia started the inning off by reaching first and advancing to second after an error by the Longwood second baseman. Roussell knocked a single up the middle two pitches later to drive in Waleszonia.

The Gators overwhelmed Longwood in the bottom of the fifth by exploding for five runs. After a Waleszonia single and a Roussell walk, freshman Francesca Enea (Woodland Hills, Calif.) loaded the bases with a single through the left side. Ali Gardiner cleared the bases with a double to center field to give the Gators a 5-1 edge. Zick singled to the pitcher and then stole second to give the Gators two runners in scoring position. Junior Mary Ratliff (Mt. Sterling, Ky.) singled through the right side to bring home two more runs for the Gators.

Longwood scored its run in the fourth inning on a home run by Ryan Washington.

In the second game, Florida’s defense came through, holding the Lancers to one run despite having loaded the bases twice. With bases loaded and no one out in the top of the first. Zick, sophomore catcher Kristina Hilberth (Dunedin, Fla.) and Gardiner combined for a double play to catch the batter and the runner coming home. Stevens caught the final batter of the inning looking to close out the Longwood half of the inning.

The Lancers left bases loaded again in the second. With two outs, Ashley Forsyth hit an infield single. Kristina Garrison walked and Caitlin Hooe was hit by a Stevens pitch. Stevens look care of business again though as she sat Camille Ketsdever down on strikes to end the inning.

The Gators broke a scoreless tie in the bottom of the fourth inning. Gardiner reached first on an error by the Longwood shortstop. Junior Ashley Harris (Royal Palm Beach, Fla.) came in to pinch run for Gardiner. Enea singled to left field to advance Harris to second. Sophomore Brooke Johnson (Lakeland, Fla.) came in to pinch run for Enea. Harris and Johnson executed a double steal on the next pitch. Harris scored on a wild pitch to Ratliff to give the Gators the lead.

The Lancers tied the game in the top of the fifth inning with a pair of hits, but Florida answered right back. Brooks doubled to centerfield to start the Gator rally. Hilberth drew a walk and Waleszonia laid down a perfect bunt to reach first. Roussell grounded to second base allowing Brooks to score from third. Ali Gardiner singled to right field scoring Waleszonia and Hilberth, but was thrown out advancing to second. Johnson singled to right center and stole second to keep the Gator rally alive. Zick blasted her seventh homerun of the season, a towering shot to left field, to clear the bases and give Florida a 6-1 lead.

The Gators added two more runs in the bottom of the sixth to extend their lead to 8-1. Brooks hit her second double of the game and moved to third on Hilberth’s infield single. Senior Shelley Stevens (Gainesville, Fla.) pinch ran for Hilberth and stole second, allowing Brooks to steal home. Stevens advanced to third and scored on two wild pitches.

Florida will wrap up the series with Longwood Sunday at 11 a. m.