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Third time a charm for softball Gators

Written by Franz Beard, May 30, 2010, 0 Comments,
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Oklahoma City is the measuring stick for college softball. Just getting there for the Women’s College World Series one time is an accomplishment but do it three years in a row and you’re making a statement that you’ve truly arrived as a national power.

“To get to the College World Series once, you’re a pretty good team,” Tim Walton said Sunday afternoon after his fourth ranked Florida Gators (48-8) made it three straight trips to Oklahoma City by putting away Arizona State, 5-2, at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium in the championship game of the NCAA Gainesville Super Regional. “To get there again a second time, you’re a little bit better team. To get there a third time, you’re starting to build a program.”

In the pre-Walton days, the Gators were the classic under-achievers, a program that never could seem to get past the regionals. Five years into the Walton era, the Gators have won four straight regionals and now they’ve won three straight super regionals to earn their way to Oklahoma City.

In many respects, Walton is Florida’s equivalent of Earl Weaver, who made it to the Hall of Fame on the theory that you win baseball games with good pitching and three-run home runs. Walton’s blueprint for the Gators is the combination of dominating pitching with a wrecking crew offense that has broken the single season record for home runs in each of his five seasons at the Florida helm.

Sunday, Stephanie Brombacher provided the pitching, following up Saturday night’s four-hit shutout with six strong innings before struggling just a bit to get out of the seventh. The hitting was provided by Kelsey Bruder (two home runs) and Megan Bush (one homer), bringing Florida’s record-setting single season home run total to 105.

In raising her record to 33-6, Brombacher allowed only four hits through the first six innings. In the seventh, the Sun Devils parlayed three hits and a Brombacher error into a single run and a bases loaded situation that had the Sun Devils looking for a single swing that could have won the game, but Brombacher escaped when she forced Kaylyn Castillo to pop to shortstop Brittany Walker to end the game.

The error was an errant throw to second base after a comebacker that Brombacher could have turned into a double play with a good throw. She extended the inning when she couldn’t come up with a soft liner that turned into an infield hit.

“My nerves were kind of going,” Brombacher said. “I should have had both those plays. The next time I’m in that situation, I can’t let my nerves got to me and finish it out as I should.”

Heading into the seventh, the Gators had built a 5-1 lead on the strength of the three home runs and Brombacher’s dominant pitching. Florida jumped on top 2-0 in the third when Aja Paculba singled up the middle on the 12th pitch of the at bat and Bruder hit the seventh offering from Megan Elliott over the center field fence for her 14th homer of the season.

Bush made it a 3-0 game in the fourth when she led off the inning with a hard line drive to center field that never traveled more than 15 feet off the ground before it cleared the fence. It was the 15th home run of the season and 44th of Bush’s career.

Bruder came through with her second homer of the day, almost to the identical spot in center field when she drilled a one-out homer to center field in the fifth.

The home run was the fourth in the last five games for Bruder, who is one of four Gators (Enea 20, Brittany Schutte 16, and Bush with 15) with at least 15 home runs this season. Bruder shrugged off the recent tear and said she’s not doing anything different now than she did earlier in the season.

“I can’t say that I’m doing anything different than I have been all season,” Bruder said. “It’s just clicking for me right now.”

Arizona State broke through against Brombacher in the sixth when Castillo hammered a one-out double to right center, moved to third on a ground out to second and scored when Brombacher was called for an illegal pitch.

The Gators countered in the seventh when Brittany Walker led off with a triple and came home on the back end of a double steal with Bruder, who had been intentionally walked. With Francesca Enea at the plate, Bruder broke for second and drew a throw, which she beat, allowing Walker to scamper home to make it a 5-1 game.

Once Brombacher got the third out of the seventh inning, the Gators did a hasty celebration in the middle of the field and then began turning their attention to Oklahoma City.

“It means a lot [to get back to Oklahoma City],” Bush said. “It’s a big boost to our program to show that we can be continually good.”

When the season began, experts thought Florida had one of the best offensive lineups in the country but there were questions about the pitching staff with Brombacher coming off Tommy John surgery and the lack of Stacey Nelson, who was one of the two most dominant pitchers in college softball the previous two seasons. The hitting came through as expected, but the pitching came through with Brombacher leading the way.

“I’ve said it before that Stacey Nelson is irreplaceable … she’s a phenomenal pitcher but the offense has stepped up and so has our pitching staff,” Bruder said. “A lot of people didn’t think we would get back here [to a super regional championship].”

The Gators have been to the WCWS two straight years but they’ve never brought home the national championship. Bush says that getting back to Oklahoma City for a shot at bringing home the elusive national title has motivated her all season long.

“I think we still all have a taste still in our mouth from last year and that’s my motivating factor to get back there and show people that we’re back and that Coach Walton has built a great program here,” she said.

GAME NOTES: The Gators are 48-8, two wins away from a school-record fourth straight season with at least 50 wins … Brombacher improved her career record to 75-6, moving her past Stacey Stevens into second place on Florida’s all-time victories list … Michelle Moultrie had two outstanding catches in center field … Walton (397-129) is three wins away from 400 for his career. In his five years at Florida, Walton is 284-65.

NCAA DIVISION I SOFTBALL CHAMPIONSHIPS

SUPER REGIONALS / Best-of-3 series / On-campus sites / May 27-30

TUSCALOOSA, ALA. / Alabama Softball Complex / University of Alabama / Friday-Saturday, May 28-29

Friday, May 28


Game 1: (16) Hawai’i vs. (1), ppd., inclement weather.

Saturday, May 29

Game 1: (1) Alabama 8, (16) Hawaii 0 (5).

Game 2: (16) Hawaii 8, (1) Alabama 7.

Sunday, May 30

Game 3: (16) Hawaii 5, (1) Alabama 4. (16) Hawaii (49-14) advances to Women’s College World Series in Oklahoma City, Okla.; (1) Alabama (52-11) eliminated.

COLUMBIA, MO. / University Field / University of Missouri / Saturday-Sunday, May 29-30

Saturday, May 29


Game 1: (9) Missouri 1, Oregon 0.

Sunday, May 30

Game 2: (9) Missouri 7, Oregon 2. (9) Missouri (51-11) advances to the Women’s College World Series in Oklahoma City, Okla.; Oregon (36-21) eliminated.

LOS ANGELES / Easton Stadium / University of California, Los Angeles / Saturday-Sunday, May 29-30

Saturday, May 29


Game 1: (5) UCLA 10, Louisiana-Lafayette 2 (5).

Sunday, May 30

Game 2: (5) UCLA 10, Louisiana-Lafayette 1 (5). (5) UCLA (45-11) advances to Women’s College World Series in Oklahoma City, Okla.; Louisiana-Lafayette (45-18) eliminated.

GAINESVILLE / Katie Seashole Pressly Softball Stadium / University of Florida / Saturday-Sunday, May 29-30

Saturday, May 29


Game 1: (4) Florida 8, (13) Arizona State 0 (5).

Sunday, May 30

Game 2: (4) Florida 5, (13) Arizona State 2. (4) Florida (48-8) advances to the Women’s College World Series in Oklahoma, Okla.; (13) Arizona State (44-17) eliminated.

SEATTLE, WASH. / Husky Softball Stadium / University of Washington / Thursday-Friday, May 27-28

Thursday, May 27


Game 1: (14) Oklahoma 6, (3) Washington 1.

Friday, May 28

Game 2: (3) Washington 3, (14) Oklahoma 0.

Game 3: (3) Washington 4, (14) Oklahoma 0. (3) Washington (50-7) advances to Women’s College World Series at Oklahoma City, Okla.; (14) Oklahoma (47-12) eliminated.

ATHENS, GA. / UGA Softball Stadium / University of Georgia / Friday-Saturday, May 28-29

Friday, May 28


Game 1: (6) Georgia 7, (11) California 0 (5).

Saturday, May 29

Game 2: (6) Georgia 10, (11) California 1. (6) Georgia (48-11) advances to Women’s College World Series at Oklahoma City, Okla.; (11) California (44-19) eliminated.

TUCSON, ARIZ. / Rita Hillenbrand Memorial Stadium / University of Arizona / Friday-Saturday, May 28-29

Friday, May 28


Game 1: (10) Arizona 2, Brigham Young 1.

Saturday, May 29

Game 2: (10) Arizona 10, Brigham Young 2 (5). (10) Arizona (48-11) advances to Women’s College World Series at Oklahoma City, Okla.; Brigham Young (46-13) eliminated.

ANN ARBOR, MICH. / Alumni Field at Wilpon Softball Complex / University of Michigan / Thursday-Friday, May 27-28

Thursday, May 27


Game 1: (15) Tennessee 5, (2) Michigan 0.

Friday, May 28

Game 2: (15) Tennessee 4, (2) Michigan 3. (15) Tennessee (47-13) advances to Women’s College World Series in Oklahoma City, Okla.; (2) Michigan (49-8) eliminated.

WOMEN’S COLLEGE WORLD SERIES / ASA Hall of Fame Stadium / Oklahoma City, Okla. / Thursday-Sunday, June 3-6, 2010 / Double-elimination

BRACKET 1

Thursday, June 3

Game 1: (9) Missouri (51-11) vs. (16) Hawaii (49-14), 1 p.m. (ESPN)

Game 2: (5) UCLA (45-11) vs. (4) Florida (48-8), 3:30 p.m. (ESPN)

Friday, June 4

Game 5: Winner Game 1 vs. Winner Game 2, 7 p.m. (ESPN)

Saturday, June 5

Game 7: Loser Game 1 vs. Loser Game 2, 12 p.m. (ESPN2) Loser eliminated

Game 9: Loser Game 5 vs. Winner Game 7, 7 p.m. (ESPN) Loser eliminated

Sunday, June 6

Game 11: Winner Game 5 vs. Winner Game 9, 1 p.m. (ESPN) Winner (if unbeaten) to Championship Series; Loser eliminated

Game 13 (if necessary): Winner Game 11 vs. Loser Game 11 (if Loser Game 11 has one loss), 7 p.m. (ESPN2) Winner to Championship Series; Loser eliminated

BRACKET 2

Thursday, June 3

Game 3: (10) Arizona (48-11) vs. (15) Tennessee (47-13), 7 p.m. (ESPN2)

Game 4: (6) Georgia (48-11) vs. (3) Washington (50-7), 9:30 p.m. (ESPN2)

Friday, June 4

Game 6: Winner Game 3 vs. Winner Game 4, 9 p.m. (ESPN)

Saturday, June 5

Game 8: Loser Game 3 vs. Loser Game 4, 2 p.m. (ESPN2) Loser eliminated

Game 10: Loser Game 6 vs. Winner Game 8, 9 p.m. (ESPN) Loser eliminated

Sunday, June 6

Game 12: Winner Game 6 vs. Winner Game 10, 3 p.m. (ESPN) Winner (if unbeaten) to Championship Series; Loser eliminated

Game 14 (if necessary): Winner Game 12 vs. Loser Game 12 (if Loser Game 12 has one loss), 9 p.m. (ESPN2) Winner to Championship Series; Loser eliminated

CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES / Monday-Wednesday, June 7-9, 2010 / Best-of-3 series

Monday, June 7

Game 1: Bracket 1 winner vs. Bracket 2 winner, 8 p.m. (ESPN2)

Tuesday, June 8

Game 2: Bracket 1 winner vs. Bracket 2 winner, 8 p.m. (ESPN2)

Wednesday, June 9

Game 3 (if necessary): Bracket 1 winner vs. Bracket 2 winner, 8 p.m. (ESPN2)

Franz Beard

About Franz Beard

Back in January of 1969, the late, great Jack Hairston, then the sports editor of the Jacksonville Journal, called me on the phone one night and asked me if I wanted to work for him. I said yes. The entire interview took 30 seconds. It's my experience that whenever the interview lasts 30 seconds or less, I get the job. In the 48 years that I've been writing and getting paid for it, I've covered Super Bowls, World Series, NCAA basketball championships, BCS championship games, heavyweight title fights and what seems like thousands of college football, baseball and basketball games. I'm a columnist and special assignments editor for Gator Country once again, writing about the only team that ever mattered to me, the Florida Gators.

Franz Beard Other Sports
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Oklahoma City is the measuring stick for college softball. Just getting there for the Women’s College World Series one time is an accomplishment but do it three years in a row and you’re making a statement that you’ve truly arrived as a national power.

“To get to the College World Series once, you’re a pretty good team,” Tim Walton said Sunday afternoon after his fourth ranked Florida Gators (48-8) made it three straight trips to Oklahoma City by putting away Arizona State, 5-2, at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium in the championship game of the NCAA Gainesville Super Regional. “To get there again a second time, you’re a little bit better team. To get there a third time, you’re starting to build a program.”

In the pre-Walton days, the Gators were the classic under-achievers, a program that never could seem to get past the regionals. Five years into the Walton era, the Gators have won four straight regionals and now they’ve won three straight super regionals to earn their way to Oklahoma City.

In many respects, Walton is Florida’s equivalent of Earl Weaver, who made it to the Hall of Fame on the theory that you win baseball games with good pitching and three-run home runs. Walton’s blueprint for the Gators is the combination of dominating pitching with a wrecking crew offense that has broken the single season record for home runs in each of his five seasons at the Florida helm.

Sunday, Stephanie Brombacher provided the pitching, following up Saturday night’s four-hit shutout with six strong innings before struggling just a bit to get out of the seventh. The hitting was provided by Kelsey Bruder (two home runs) and Megan Bush (one homer), bringing Florida’s record-setting single season home run total to 105.

In raising her record to 33-6, Brombacher allowed only four hits through the first six innings. In the seventh, the Sun Devils parlayed three hits and a Brombacher error into a single run and a bases loaded situation that had the Sun Devils looking for a single swing that could have won the game, but Brombacher escaped when she forced Kaylyn Castillo to pop to shortstop Brittany Walker to end the game.

The error was an errant throw to second base after a comebacker that Brombacher could have turned into a double play with a good throw. She extended the inning when she couldn’t come up with a soft liner that turned into an infield hit.

“My nerves were kind of going,” Brombacher said. “I should have had both those plays. The next time I’m in that situation, I can’t let my nerves got to me and finish it out as I should.”

Heading into the seventh, the Gators had built a 5-1 lead on the strength of the three home runs and Brombacher’s dominant pitching. Florida jumped on top 2-0 in the third when Aja Paculba singled up the middle on the 12th pitch of the at bat and Bruder hit the seventh offering from Megan Elliott over the center field fence for her 14th homer of the season.

Bush made it a 3-0 game in the fourth when she led off the inning with a hard line drive to center field that never traveled more than 15 feet off the ground before it cleared the fence. It was the 15th home run of the season and 44th of Bush’s career.

Bruder came through with her second homer of the day, almost to the identical spot in center field when she drilled a one-out homer to center field in the fifth.

The home run was the fourth in the last five games for Bruder, who is one of four Gators (Enea 20, Brittany Schutte 16, and Bush with 15) with at least 15 home runs this season. Bruder shrugged off the recent tear and said she’s not doing anything different now than she did earlier in the season.

“I can’t say that I’m doing anything different than I have been all season,” Bruder said. “It’s just clicking for me right now.”

Arizona State broke through against Brombacher in the sixth when Castillo hammered a one-out double to right center, moved to third on a ground out to second and scored when Brombacher was called for an illegal pitch.

The Gators countered in the seventh when Brittany Walker led off with a triple and came home on the back end of a double steal with Bruder, who had been intentionally walked. With Francesca Enea at the plate, Bruder broke for second and drew a throw, which she beat, allowing Walker to scamper home to make it a 5-1 game.

Once Brombacher got the third out of the seventh inning, the Gators did a hasty celebration in the middle of the field and then began turning their attention to Oklahoma City.

“It means a lot [to get back to Oklahoma City],” Bush said. “It’s a big boost to our program to show that we can be continually good.”

When the season began, experts thought Florida had one of the best offensive lineups in the country but there were questions about the pitching staff with Brombacher coming off Tommy John surgery and the lack of Stacey Nelson, who was one of the two most dominant pitchers in college softball the previous two seasons. The hitting came through as expected, but the pitching came through with Brombacher leading the way.

“I’ve said it before that Stacey Nelson is irreplaceable … she’s a phenomenal pitcher but the offense has stepped up and so has our pitching staff,” Bruder said. “A lot of people didn’t think we would get back here [to a super regional championship].”

The Gators have been to the WCWS two straight years but they’ve never brought home the national championship. Bush says that getting back to Oklahoma City for a shot at bringing home the elusive national title has motivated her all season long.

“I think we still all have a taste still in our mouth from last year and that’s my motivating factor to get back there and show people that we’re back and that Coach Walton has built a great program here,” she said.

GAME NOTES: The Gators are 48-8, two wins away from a school-record fourth straight season with at least 50 wins … Brombacher improved her career record to 75-6, moving her past Stacey Stevens into second place on Florida’s all-time victories list … Michelle Moultrie had two outstanding catches in center field … Walton (397-129) is three wins away from 400 for his career. In his five years at Florida, Walton is 284-65.

NCAA DIVISION I SOFTBALL CHAMPIONSHIPS

SUPER REGIONALS / Best-of-3 series / On-campus sites / May 27-30

TUSCALOOSA, ALA. / Alabama Softball Complex / University of Alabama / Friday-Saturday, May 28-29

Friday, May 28


Game 1: (16) Hawai’i vs. (1), ppd., inclement weather.

Saturday, May 29

Game 1: (1) Alabama 8, (16) Hawaii 0 (5).

Game 2: (16) Hawaii 8, (1) Alabama 7.

Sunday, May 30

Game 3: (16) Hawaii 5, (1) Alabama 4. (16) Hawaii (49-14) advances to Women’s College World Series in Oklahoma City, Okla.; (1) Alabama (52-11) eliminated.

COLUMBIA, MO. / University Field / University of Missouri / Saturday-Sunday, May 29-30

Saturday, May 29


Game 1: (9) Missouri 1, Oregon 0.

Sunday, May 30

Game 2: (9) Missouri 7, Oregon 2. (9) Missouri (51-11) advances to the Women’s College World Series in Oklahoma City, Okla.; Oregon (36-21) eliminated.

LOS ANGELES / Easton Stadium / University of California, Los Angeles / Saturday-Sunday, May 29-30

Saturday, May 29


Game 1: (5) UCLA 10, Louisiana-Lafayette 2 (5).

Sunday, May 30

Game 2: (5) UCLA 10, Louisiana-Lafayette 1 (5). (5) UCLA (45-11) advances to Women’s College World Series in Oklahoma City, Okla.; Louisiana-Lafayette (45-18) eliminated.

GAINESVILLE / Katie Seashole Pressly Softball Stadium / University of Florida / Saturday-Sunday, May 29-30

Saturday, May 29


Game 1: (4) Florida 8, (13) Arizona State 0 (5).

Sunday, May 30

Game 2: (4) Florida 5, (13) Arizona State 2. (4) Florida (48-8) advances to the Women’s College World Series in Oklahoma, Okla.; (13) Arizona State (44-17) eliminated.

SEATTLE, WASH. / Husky Softball Stadium / University of Washington / Thursday-Friday, May 27-28

Thursday, May 27


Game 1: (14) Oklahoma 6, (3) Washington 1.

Friday, May 28

Game 2: (3) Washington 3, (14) Oklahoma 0.

Game 3: (3) Washington 4, (14) Oklahoma 0. (3) Washington (50-7) advances to Women’s College World Series at Oklahoma City, Okla.; (14) Oklahoma (47-12) eliminated.

ATHENS, GA. / UGA Softball Stadium / University of Georgia / Friday-Saturday, May 28-29

Friday, May 28


Game 1: (6) Georgia 7, (11) California 0 (5).

Saturday, May 29

Game 2: (6) Georgia 10, (11) California 1. (6) Georgia (48-11) advances to Women’s College World Series at Oklahoma City, Okla.; (11) California (44-19) eliminated.

TUCSON, ARIZ. / Rita Hillenbrand Memorial Stadium / University of Arizona / Friday-Saturday, May 28-29

Friday, May 28


Game 1: (10) Arizona 2, Brigham Young 1.

Saturday, May 29

Game 2: (10) Arizona 10, Brigham Young 2 (5). (10) Arizona (48-11) advances to Women’s College World Series at Oklahoma City, Okla.; Brigham Young (46-13) eliminated.

ANN ARBOR, MICH. / Alumni Field at Wilpon Softball Complex / University of Michigan / Thursday-Friday, May 27-28

Thursday, May 27


Game 1: (15) Tennessee 5, (2) Michigan 0.

Friday, May 28

Game 2: (15) Tennessee 4, (2) Michigan 3. (15) Tennessee (47-13) advances to Women’s College World Series in Oklahoma City, Okla.; (2) Michigan (49-8) eliminated.

WOMEN’S COLLEGE WORLD SERIES / ASA Hall of Fame Stadium / Oklahoma City, Okla. / Thursday-Sunday, June 3-6, 2010 / Double-elimination

BRACKET 1

Thursday, June 3

Game 1: (9) Missouri (51-11) vs. (16) Hawaii (49-14), 1 p.m. (ESPN)

Game 2: (5) UCLA (45-11) vs. (4) Florida (48-8), 3:30 p.m. (ESPN)

Friday, June 4

Game 5: Winner Game 1 vs. Winner Game 2, 7 p.m. (ESPN)

Saturday, June 5

Game 7: Loser Game 1 vs. Loser Game 2, 12 p.m. (ESPN2) Loser eliminated

Game 9: Loser Game 5 vs. Winner Game 7, 7 p.m. (ESPN) Loser eliminated

Sunday, June 6

Game 11: Winner Game 5 vs. Winner Game 9, 1 p.m. (ESPN) Winner (if unbeaten) to Championship Series; Loser eliminated

Game 13 (if necessary): Winner Game 11 vs. Loser Game 11 (if Loser Game 11 has one loss), 7 p.m. (ESPN2) Winner to Championship Series; Loser eliminated

BRACKET 2

Thursday, June 3

Game 3: (10) Arizona (48-11) vs. (15) Tennessee (47-13), 7 p.m. (ESPN2)

Game 4: (6) Georgia (48-11) vs. (3) Washington (50-7), 9:30 p.m. (ESPN2)

Friday, June 4

Game 6: Winner Game 3 vs. Winner Game 4, 9 p.m. (ESPN)

Saturday, June 5

Game 8: Loser Game 3 vs. Loser Game 4, 2 p.m. (ESPN2) Loser eliminated

Game 10: Loser Game 6 vs. Winner Game 8, 9 p.m. (ESPN) Loser eliminated

Sunday, June 6

Game 12: Winner Game 6 vs. Winner Game 10, 3 p.m. (ESPN) Winner (if unbeaten) to Championship Series; Loser eliminated

Game 14 (if necessary): Winner Game 12 vs. Loser Game 12 (if Loser Game 12 has one loss), 9 p.m. (ESPN2) Winner to Championship Series; Loser eliminated

CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES / Monday-Wednesday, June 7-9, 2010 / Best-of-3 series

Monday, June 7

Game 1: Bracket 1 winner vs. Bracket 2 winner, 8 p.m. (ESPN2)

Tuesday, June 8

Game 2: Bracket 1 winner vs. Bracket 2 winner, 8 p.m. (ESPN2)

Wednesday, June 9

Game 3 (if necessary): Bracket 1 winner vs. Bracket 2 winner, 8 p.m. (ESPN2)

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