Gator softball ends stellar season

The No. 19 Florida Softball (50-22) team ended their season on Saturday evening in College Station, Texas. The Gators took the second game of the best-of-three series with Texas A&M (46-12), 3-2, to force a third game, but fell in the final game, 2-0.

“I thought today was a great competition between two outstanding teams,” said Florida head coach Tim Walton. “It came down to some timely hits, which obviously Texas A&M had. We have to give them a lot of credit. They were a good team. They played hard, made almost every play on defense. They just kept taking their hacks and kept finding ways to get things done. Our team deserves a lot of credit also. They played their hearts out. They gave everything they had. Today wasn’t good enough, but to get where we have this season, we have accomplished a lot with our program.”

The first game of the day came down to the bottom of the seventh inning. With one out, senior Lauren Roussell (Cerritos, Calif.) took the seventh pitch offered her from Texas A&M pitcher Amanda Scarborough over the video board in left field for her seventh home run of the season to give the Gators the 3-2 victory.

Texas A&M put up runs first in the top of the first. Sharonda McDonald led off the game with a bunt single. She moved to second on a wild pitch. Jamie Hinshaw drew a walk on four straight balls from Florida sophomore pitcher Stacey Nelson (Los Alamitos, Calif.). The runners advanced to second and third on a passed ball on a Megan Gibson strikeout. Scarborough was intentionally walked to load the bases to give the Gator defense a force at any base, but Jami Lobpries knocked a two RBI double to right centerfield to give the Aggies the 2-0 lead.

Florida began to mount its comeback in the bottom of the third. Sophomore Kristina Hilberth (Dunedin, Fla.) slapped a one-out base hit up the middle. Sophomore Brooke Johnson (Lakeland, Fla.) followed with another base hit, this time to left field. Sophomore Kim Waleszonia (Fontana, Calif.) reached on a fielder’s choice, but all runners were safe on an error by the Aggie second baseman. Roussell grounded out to short for the second out of the inning, but Hilberth came home on the play, narrowing the Aggie lead to just one run.

The Gator defense held tough in the top of the fourth. With one out, Macie Morrow walked and Joy Davis walked. Pinch hitter Mandy Gegan reached on a fielder’s choice to short as Roussell threw lead runner Morrow out at third for the second out of the inning. McDonald grabbed her second hit of the day and it looked as if the bases would be loaded again, but Davis rounded third to head home and was caught in a run down and tagged out by Florida senior third baseman Melissa Zick (Tampa, Fla.).

Hilberth reached on an infield single to lead off the Gator half of the fifth for her second hit of the game. Sophomore Ashley Harris (Royal Palm Beach, Fla.) came in to pinch run for her and immediately stole second. Harris moved to third on a Johnson sacrifice bunt. Hilberth then reentered the game for Harris at third and scored her second run of the game on a Waleszonia base hit to tie the game at 2-2.

That would be it for both teams until Roussell?s seventh inning heroics.

“I was just looking for anything over the plate,” Roussell said. “Fighting and fighting and fouling them off. I was doing anything I could to put it in play hard somewhere. Lucky for me I put one hard somewhere and it went out.”

Stacey Nelson pitched the complete game to earn the win for the Gators. It would be her last decision of the season and she finishes the year with a 34-14 record. Scarborough relieved starter Gibson after Hilberth’s run in the fifth to take the loss.

The Gators found out they would be the visiting team for the final game of the series following a coin flip between games. Senior Stacey Stevens (Gainesville, Fla.) was given the ball in the circle to start the game.

In game three, Florida got a runner on base in every inning but the second. They just weren?t able to put one across the plate.

The Aggies took the lead right away in the bottom of the first. Hinshaw drew a one-out walk. Gibson singled up the middle, advancing Hinshaw all the way to third. With one out, Lobpries hit another base hit to score Hinshaw for the 1-0 lead.

Texas A&M went up 2-0 in the fifth. Gibson led off the inning with a double to right. She advanced to third on a passed ball and scored on a RBI base hit by Alex Reynolds.

Waleszonia reached on an error with two outs in the third inning. She then stole second for her 24th steal of the season to set the school record. She beat the previous record of 23 set by Jackie Marchetta in 2003 and Lora Pinkerton in 2000.

Nelson replaced Stevens in the third to finish out the game. Stevens took the loss to finish her season at 16-8. The two Gator pitchers combined for seven strikeouts on the game. They each gave up one walk and one of the Aggie?s runs. Scarborough earned her third decision of the series with the win to improve to 26-8 heading into the World Series.

The Gators ended a season for the records books, setting or tying records for wins (50), stolen bases (129), ERA (1.40), opponent batting average (.207), shut outs (26), fewest runs allowed (126), fewest earned runs allowed (100), fielding percentage (.975) and fewest errors (55).

There are still some post-season awards yet to be announced. The NFCA/Louisville Slugger All-America teams will be announced on Wednesday, May 30. Waleszonia and Nelson are both candidates for those awards. Several additional Gators have been nominated for Easton All-America awards. Those will also be announced within the next two weeks.

Courtesy UF Sports Info