The No. 2-ranked University of Florida softball team defeated Valparaiso, 13-4, and Syracuse, 2-0, in the team’s opening games of the Lipton Invitational at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium Friday to improve to 16-0 on the season. Sophomore Brittany Schutte dropped two home runs against the Crusaders, the first time this season a Gator has hit two homers in one game, and tallied five RBI in game one. Senior Aja Paculba went 3-for-4 with two runs, two RBI and a double against Valparaiso.
Senior Stephanie Brombacher earned her ninth win for the Gators after entering the UF-Valpo game to relieve sophomore Ensley Gammel in the second inning. The righty struck out 10 of the 19 batters she faced, while only allowing one hit, run and walk. Newcomer Hannah Rogers tallied her seventh win of the season with nine strikeouts, two hits and two walks, while remaining hitless for 4.1 innings in Florida’s second game against the Syracuse Orange.
Alex Lagesse shouldered the loss for Valpo (5-6, 0-0 Horizon) as one of four pitchers who tried to halt the Gators’ scoring attack. Lagesse dropped to 3-4, allowing two hits, five runs and three walks in .2 innings of work.
Jenna Caira chalked up the loss for the Orange (12-3, 0-0 Big East), dropping her to 8-2 on the season. Although she struck out five, Caira gave up two earned runs and walked four in a complete-game effort.
Valparaiso scored two in the first to give them the early lead, the first time all season that Florida had allowed a run in the first inning. Hayley Bridwell drew a walk and a single by Sara Strickland put two runners on. A bunt by Jessie Marinec put both runners in scoring position and a double by Jordan Rutkowski batted the two runs in. The Gator defense was able to cap the Crusaders at two runs for the inning as Gammel got the next batter out swinging and a groundout closed out the inning.
The first inning would be the only time Valparaiso held the lead, as the Gators put up eight runs, a season-high for an inning, in the second, including two home runs by Schutte, first a solo, then a three-run shot. The sophomore led off the inning with a bomb to right, followed by a pair of singles by senior Megan Bush and sophomore Kelsey Horton to chase pitcher Sam McGee from the circle. After Bush and Horton both crossed home, senior Kelsey Bruder brought freshman Cheyenne Coyle and junior Michelle Moultrie home to increase the lead to 5-2 thanks to a Kasey Fagan sac bunt that advanced Coyle and allowed Moultrie to reach on balls, then steal second. Paculba drew a walk to set up Schutte’s second bomb to center field, tallying the final three runs of the inning.
Brombacher entered for Gammel after the Crusaders added one more in the bottom of the second, but the sophomore class continued to shine as Samantha Holle hit a bomb of her own over the center-field fence to help the Gators add three in the third. Coyle hit a single to left and was joined on base by Fagan when she reached on a fielder’s choice. A pair of singles by Paculba and Bruder scored both freshmen and set the score at 11-3.
In the fifth inning, Marinec led off with a home run, but that was the final hit for Valparaiso as Brombacher and the Gator defense retired the next three batters, two by strikeout. The Gators added two final runs in the seventh, sparked by Moultrie’s fourth triple of the season to lead off the inning. Paculba doubled to center to score Moultrie and then advanced and scored on two ground outs, resulting in the final 13-4 margin.
The victory against Syracuse didn’t come quite as easy as the afternoon match-up with Valpo, but the Gator defense held the opponent scoreless for its ninth shutout of 2011. The Orange was held to two hits in the seven-inning match and was only able to draw one walk from Rogers.
The Gators tallied runs in the first and third innings by working their way around the bases. Moultrie, extending her career-long 14-game hit streak, led off with a single, advanced on a walk and came home on a single by Bush to left center. Moultrie also played a part in the second run, as her hit-by-pitch enabled Fagan to advance to second after laying down a bunt and beating out the throw. Paculba then reached on a fielding error by the SU second baseman and Bruder drew a base on balls, sending Fagan home.
Rogers kept Syracuse scoreless, even when they had two runners on base with no outs in the seventh. The righty caught the next two batters swinging and the third flied out to secure the shutout.
The Lipton Invitational resumes tomorrow at 8:30 a.m. when Gardner-Webb takes on Valparaiso, followed by Pacific vs. Valparaiso at 10:45 a.m., Florida vs. North Dakota St. at 1 p.m., Florida vs. Pacific at 3:15 p.m., Gardner-Webb vs. Syracuse at 5:30 p.m. and North Dakota St. vs. Syracuse at 7:45 p.m. in the nightcap.