The No. 20 Florida Softball team defeated Mississippi State, 3-2, today at the Florida Softball Stadium, improving to 41-19 (14-11 SEC) for the season. The Gators needed extra innings to defeat the Bulldogs (32-23,
12-13), taking the series two games to one.
The teams were tied at two going in to the ninth inning. The Gators shut down the Bulldogs in the top half of the ninth inning, setting up a chance to seal the win. The first batter grounded out to senior Melissa Zick (Tampa, Fla.). Sophomore pitcher Stacey Nelson (Los Alamitos, Calif.) sat down the final two Bulldog batter sof the game on strikes.
Then the Gators had their chance to secure the game and the series win. Senior Lacy Howard (League City, Texas) ripped a single into center field to lead off the inning. Freshman Corrie Brooks (Christmas, Fla.) laid down a sacrifice bunt to move Howard into scoring position. With two outs, sophomore Kim Waleszonia (Fontana, Calif.) knocked in Howard with her walk-off double to center.
The Gators and Bulldogs battled through six scoreless innings before either team managed a run. MSU broke the scoreless tie in the top of the seventh inning when Courtney Bures drew a walk and moved to second after a fielder’s choice. Sammie Jo Bailey singled to right to score Bures giving the Bulldogs the edge.
The Gators answered back in the bottom half of the inning, putting up one run to send the game into extra innings. With one out, junior Mary Ratliff (Mt. Sterling, Ky.) singled to right field. Junior Ashley Harris
(Royal Palm Beach, Fla.) came in to pinch run for Ratliff. Harris stole second and advanced to third after a throwing error by the MSU catcher. Ratliff re-entered the game to run at third base, and scored when freshman Francesca Enea (Woodland Hills, Calif.) knocked a base hit into center field.
The Bulldogs put up another run in the top of the eighth to take a 2-1 lead. With the bases loaded and two outs, an error by the Gators allowed Nakita Boyce to score putting the Bulldogs ahead.
The Gators bounced back in the bottom of the eighth, when senior Lauren Roussell (Cerritos, Calif.) hammered her fourth home run of the year to tie the game at two a piece.
Nelson earned the win for the Gators, coming in the game with one out in the fourth inning to relieve senior Stacey Stevens*(Gainesville, Fla.). Nelson struck out five in the win, improving her record to 26-12 on the year. Stevens gave up only two hits and struck out three in her 3.1 innings of work. Kelsey Nurnberg pitched the final 2.1 innings for Mississippi State to take the loss.
Prior to the game, the Gators celebrated Senior Day. Seniors Howard, Roussell, Stevens and Zick were honored in a pre-game ceremony, celebrating their achievements on the Florida softball team.
Florida will wrap up regular season play at Kentucky next weekend. The Gators and Wildcats will play a doubleheader at 1 p. m. on Saturday and a single game at 1 p. m. on Sunday.
Courtesy UF Sports Info.