Gator softball sweeps doubleheader vs. USC

The No. 22 University of Florida Softball team (39-18, 12-10 SEC) swept a doubleheader at South Carolina (32-18, 10-12 SEC) on Tuesday night. The Gators tallied 18 runs on 26 hits in the two games, winning the first 8-0 and the second 10-0.

The Gators were able to push runs across in every inning except the first in the first game of the doubleheader.

Florida took the first lead in the second inning. With one out, senior Lacy Howard (League City, Texas) reached on a throwing error by the Gamecock pitcher. Howard moved all the way to third on a freshman Corrie Brooks (Christmas, Fla.) base hit to right center. Howard was thrown out at the plate on a fielder’s choice from sophomore Kristina Hilberth

(Dunedin, Fla.), leaving Hilberth and Brooks at first and second. Sophomore Kim Waleszonia (Fontana, Calif.) knocked a clutch two-out base hit down the left field line to score Brooks for the 1-0 Gator lead.

The Gators tacked on two more in the third frame as senior Melissa Zick

(Tampa, Fla.) knocked her ninth home run on the season with sophomore Ali Gardiner (Waccabuc, N. Y.) on first.

Brooks led off the fourth reaching on an error by the Gamecock catcher on a bunt. She advanced all the way to second on the play. Hilberth followed with a base hit to center and moved to second on the throw home to prevent Brooks from scoring. Brooks hung tight at third until a sacrifice bunt by Waleszonia brought her home for the 4-0 Gator lead. Senior Lauren Roussell (Cerritos, Calif.) reached on a fielder’s choice as South Carolina tried to get Hilberth at third. Hilberth slid under the tag, leaving Florida runners safe at the corners for Gardiner. Gardiner knocked her third hit of the game to the centerfield wall for a RBI-double to give Florida the five-run lift.

Brooks gave Florida a 6-0 lead with a two-out solo home run in the fifth. It was the fist home run of her Gator career.

Roussell led off the sixth reaching base on balls. She stole second to put herself in scoring position for Zick with two outs in the inning. Zick drove a base hit to center to score Roussell for the seventh Gator run of the game.

The Gators put their final run across in the top of the seventh. Waleszonia drove a triple to the left centerfield wall to score Hilberth from first, handing the Gators the 8-0 victory.

The Florida pitching staff only allowed four South Carolina base runners and only one reached second. Sophomore Stacey Nelson (Los Alamitos, Calif.) pitched the first 4.1 innings to earn the win. She allowed only two hits and struck out three batters. Senior Stacey Stevens

(Gainesville, Fla.) pitched the final 2.2 innings, giving up only a hit and a walk and striking out two. Melissa Hendon took the loss for South Carolina to move her record to 16-12.

The Gators continued in the same way to start game two, as they took a

1-0 lead in the first inning, marking the seventh consecutive inning the scored a run. Waleszonia drew a lead off walk. She advanced to second on a passed ball and to third on a sacrifice bunt by Roussell. A single through the left side by Gardiner brought Waleszonia home for the early one-run Florida lead.

South Carolina had a chance to put a run across in their half of the second, but the Gator defense took care of business. Nelson put Jessica Josker on base with a lead off walk. A sacrifice bunt by Lindsay Walker moved Josker to second. Becky Martinez popped up to Zick for the second out of the inning. Lisa Longo drew a walk and Jacqueline Wetherbee grabbed a base hit to load the bases. Zick got the Gators out of the inning though as she grabbed a line drive from Whitney Wierzbicki out of the air for the third out.

Florida went up by two in the fourth. Gardiner led off with a base hit through the left side. She advanced on a fielder? s choice play that found both her and freshman Francesca Enea (Woodland Hills, Calif.) safe. Sophomore Brooke Johnson (Lakeland, Fla.) came in to pinch run for Enea. Both runners advanced on a wild pitch from Kate Pouliot. Gardiner scored on a Zick sacrifice fly to right.

Brooks knocked a base hit up the middle with one out in the fifth. Hilberth followed with another base hit, this time to shallow left. Waleszonia hit her third home run of the season over the left field fence to put Florida up 5-0. With two outs, Gardiner doubled down the left field line. Johnson ripped a base hit back at the pitcher to score Gardiner for the six-run lead.

Two home runs scored Florida’s remaining four runs. Howard led off the seventh with a home run to left. Junior Mary Ratliff (Mt. Sterling, Ky.) blasted a three run homer to right in the seventh to give Florida the final 10-0 win.

Nelson pitched the complete game for the Gators, giving up only one run and allowing only one runner on base beyond the second inning. Her record improves to 25-11 on the year. Pouliot took the loss to move to

14-5 on the season.

Florida had several players with outstanding performances at the plate. Gardiner finished the doubleheader 6-for-8 with two doubles, three runs scored and two RBI. Brooks went 5-for-7 with four runs scored, a home run and a RBI. Waleszonia went 4-for-7 with two runs scored, a triple, a home run and a team-leading six RBI. Hilberth and Zick each went 3-for-7 with Hilberth scoring three runs and Zick tallying four RBI.

“I am really proud of our kids answering the challenge of playing a very good South Carolina team on the road,” head coach Tim Walton said. “Everyone knew this was as big of a challenge as we have faced all year. I really felt we came ready to play.”

The Gators will finish the home portion of their schedule on Friday and Saturday against Mississippi State. The two teams will face off in a doubleheader beginning at 5 p. m. on Friday. The first 750 fans will receive free Florida Softball visors. New Florida head women? s basketball coach Amanda Butler will throw out the first pitch. Saturday is Senior Day. The first 250 fans will receive a free set of trading cards featuring the Gators seniors. There will be a ceremony to recognize the seniors before the game. After the game the seniors will sign their trading cards. First pitch is scheduled for 1 p. m.

Courtesy UF Sports Info.