The Gators hit seven home runs, including two grand slams, one each from seniors Tiffany DeFelice (Coral Springs, Fla.) and Megan Bush (Anaheim Hills, Calif.) and the No. 5 Gators cruised to 17-1 (5) and 6-0 wins over Marshall and Florida Gulf Coast, respectively, at the USF-hosted Wilson DeMarini Tournament to kick off the 2011 season 2-0 on opening day. Florida head coach Tim Walton improved to 400-131 (.753) in his career as a head coach, eclipsing the milestone the first day of his sixth season at the helm of the Gator program.
Senior ace Stephanie Brombacher (Pembroke Pines, Fla.) threw a stellar game one, tallying the 16-run win and holding the Marshall Thundering Herd hitless and scoreless through four innings. Brombacher struck out four and walked just one. Sophomore righty Ensley Gammel (Bakersfield, Calif.) came on for one inning of relief as the duo collaborated for UF’s ninth combined one-hitter, the first since Stacey Stevens and Stacey Nelson teamed up for one against Mississippi State April 2, 2006. Natalie Pulver took the loss for Marshall.
All four Gator freshmen saw action on opening day, including starts by Kasey Fagan (Dunnellon, Fla.) at third, Cheyenne Coyle (West Hills, Calif.) at shortstop and righty Hannah Rogers (Winter Haven, Fla.) in the circle in UF’s second game over Florida Gulf Coast. Chelsea Howell (Plantation, Fla.) entered as a pinch runner in the nightcap against the Eagles.
Florida put up six runs apiece in the second and third innings and five runs in the top of the fourth in the five-inning victory over Marshall. After a pitching staff change by the Herd following a double by sophomore utility and Preseason All-SEC selection Brittany Schutte (Fountain Valley, Calif.) and two straight walks, DeFelice connected to send the ball out of the park with bases loaded and Coyle stepped up to bat, sending the ball sailing for a single homer. Coyle had a stellar day, smashing two hits out of the park, one in each game, most notably her first at-bat as a Gator, finishing the day 3-for-6 (.500) with four RBI and 10 total bases. Schutte matched the .500 batting clip, with a solo homerun and seven total bases. Bush was right alongside connecting on 3-of-5 (.600) with a homer and five RBI. Fagan scored UF’s sixth run in the second following a walk, sacrifice bunt by junior Michelle Moultrie (Jacksonville, Fla.) and a single by senior Aja Paculba (Wildomar, Calif.).
The Orange and Blue poured on the scoring yet again in the third inning and continued in the fourth when Bush notched a grand slam, sending Schutte, Bruder and Paculba all home.
Florida’s success carried over into the second game as Rogers solidified her first career victory over the Eagles after pitching a complete game, retiring 11 batters by strikeout and walking just one in 23 batters. Catherine McDaniel shouldered the loss for FGCU. All six of UF’s runs against the Eagles were the result of four homeruns.
In a back-and-forth pitching battle in Florida’s second game against the Eagles, the Gators got hot when Schutte hit a two-out solo shot at the top of the sixth when the Gators needed it most, giving UF some momentum to put some runs on the board. Following Schutte’s homer, Bush singled to left field, allowing sophomore Kelsey Horton (Valrico, Fla.) to clock a two-run shot over the left center fence next, but the Gator scoring surge didn’t stop there. A fielding error by FGCU’s shortstop allowed DeFelice to reach first and Coyle tacked on her second homer, a two-run shot, to close out UF’s sixth-inning scoring, leaving the Eagles still scoreless.
Senior Kelsey Bruder (Corona, Calif.) sealed the deal when she hit the ball out of the park on a two-out success in the top of the seventh, sending UF home with a 2-0 start to the 2011 Wilson DeMarini Tournament.
The Gators will continue their opening weekend stand at the Eddie C. Moore Softball Complex in Clearwater Saturday when they face Long Island at 12:30 p.m. and NC State at 3 p.m. Fans can follow live stats, found online at http://www.GatorZone.com or tune in to 105 The Game locally as Mike Gillespie and Kristina Hilberth call the action.—UF Sports Info