Softball splits doubleheader with MSU

The No. 20 ranked Florida softball team split its doubleheader against Mississippi State today at the Florida Softball Stadium. The Bulldogs edged Florida 4-3 in the first game, but the Gators battled back for a 2-1 victory in game two.

Florida (40-19, 13-11) had the lead in the first game, but couldn’t hold off a late MSU rally. Junior Mary Ratliff (Mt. Sterling, Ky.) hit her fifth home run of the season for Florida, but it wasn’t enough as the Bulldogs fought back to win 4-3. The Bulldogs used eight hits and three Florida errors defeat the Gators.

Mississippi State got on the board first, scoring two runs on three hits and one Gator error in the top of the second inning. Sammie Jo Bailey singled to shortstop and advanced to second after an error. Katie Johnson singled allowing Bailey to score. Jessie Bailey singled to left field to score Johnson for the 2-0 lead.

Florida answered right back and tied the game in the bottom the second. Senior Melissa Zick (Tampa, Fla.) lined a single to center that was misplayed by the MSU centerfielder, allowing Zick to advance to third. Ratliff then ripped her home run off the top of the left-centerfield fence to even the score at two a piece.

The Gators tacked on another run in the bottom of the fifth to take a

3-2 lead. Sophomore catcher Kristina Hilberth (Dunedin, Fla.) drew a walk and scored when sophomore Kim Waleszonia (Fontana, Calif.) smashed a triple past the MSU centerfielder.

The Bulldogs retook the lead for good in the top of the seventh. Nakita Boyce reached first on an error. Chelsea Bramlett singled, moving Boyce to second base. Boyce and Bramlett executed a double steal putting MSU runners on second and third. Courtney Bures doubled to score Boyce and Bramlett, giving MSU the 4-3 edge.

Sophomore Stacey Nelson (Los Alamitos, Calif.) took the loss for the Gators, moving her record to 25-12 on the year. It was Nelson’s 10th one-run loss on the year. Sara Hickerson came in the game in relief of Kelli Miller and pitched the final 2.1 innings to earn the win and improve to 6-5 on the year.

Despite being out hit seven to four, the Gators found a way to defeat the Bulldogs in the second game.

The Bulldogs jumped ahead quickly again, as Bures hit a solo homerun to left field in the top of the first inning. That would be the only run the Bulldogs would score the rest of the night.

The Gators took a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the fifth inning and never looked back. Freshman Francesca Enea (Woodland Hills, Calif.) hit a leadoff double to start the inning. The next batter, senior Lacy Howard

(League City, Texas) hit her sixth home run of the season to put the Gators on top for good.

Nelson came in to relieve senior Stacey Stevens (Gainesville, Fla.) in the top of the seventh and mowed down three straight Bulldog batters to pick up her team-leading fourth save of the season. Stevens earned the win, improving her 2007 record to 15-7. Kelsey Nurnberg to the loss for Mississippi State to move to 7-4 on the year.

Waleszonia led the Gators with a 3-for-6 performance from the plate with a triple and a RBI. Zick was also 3-for-6 with a run scored.

The two teams will play the tie-breaking game Saturday at 1 p. m. It will be Senior Day at the Florida Softball Stadium. The first 250 fans at the game will receive free trading cards featuring the four Gators seniors. The seniors will be recognized in a pre-game ceremony and their mothers will throw out the first pitch. Following the game the seniors will be available to autograph their trading cards.

Courtesy UF Sports Info