When the UCLA softball team was selected to play in the NCAA Gainesville Regional, Gators head coach Tim Walton was surprised to say the least.
On Saturday at 1 p.m., his team will play the most anticipated matchup in the region as Florida faces the defending national champions at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium.
Walton said after Friday’s five-inning win against Bethune-Cookman that despite his team’s headstrong approach to focusing solely on the Wildcats, Florida has also anticipated the matchup.
“I’d be lying to say we haven’t been preparing for UCLA,” he said. “We’ve done that. We always do that.”
With video and scouting reports on the Bruins, Walton said his team has also worked in practice in the last week to be ready for what UCLA brings to the plate.
“Now it’s going to come down to what we do between the white lines,” he said. “You take two quality teams and two quality programs, and the team that comes out ready to play and capitalizes on mistakes is going to be the team that wins tomorrow.”
The Bruins did just that in their 2-0 victory over Jacksonville earlier in the day.
UCLA capitalized in the bottom of the 6th inning when JU right fielder Meagan Balding misread a pop fly hit by Andrea Harrison with a runner on. Harrison ended up with a triple bringing in the game’s first run.
Two batters later, UCLA freshman catcher Alyssa Tiumalu hit a deep fly out in foul territory in left field that was caught by Jacey Warner, resulting in a sacrifice fly for UCLA. If Warner did not catch the ball, the game could have been 1-0 going into the final inning.
As for the Gators, they left seven batters on base against B-CU, but it didn’t matter as timely at-bats and aggressive base running fueled the offense.
Every Florida batter reached base thanks to nine hits and five walks off of B-CU ace Allison Garcia, who threw 129 pitches before being replaced in the bottom of the fifth inning.
The Gators also stole four bases with the first coming from speedster Michelle Moultrie, whose leadoff single and base running set the tone for Florida early.
Her double to right-center in the bottom of the third inning raised the score to 6-0, and her sac bunt in the bottom of the fifth allowed Ensley Gammel to advance to third base for Aja Paculba’s game-winning sacrifice fly.
Moultrie and shortstop Cheyenne Coyle were the only two Gators to get two hits off of Garcia.
In her first NCAA postseason game, Coyle went 2-for-3 with a home run and drove in a game-high three RBIs.
Her two-RBI single to left field in the first inning gave the Gators a 4-0 lead, and her homer in the fifth not only helped Florida end the game early, but it also ended any thought of pregame jitters for the freshman.
“I think more than anything, it is excitement more than being nervous,” Coyle said.
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.