2012 Florida Gators softball primer: Build it up

Spring is here and No. 2/4 Florida Gators softball is set to begin their 2012 season this weekend by playing five games as part of a three-day tournament hosted by South Florida in Tampa, FL from Feb. 10-12.

The Gators enter the 2012 campaign having lost a number of major pieces that formed the core of last year’s team that went all the way to the championship round of the 2011 Women’s College World Series. However, a strong and dynamic freshman class coupled with a crop of extremely talented players and superb coaching by Tim Walton means that Florida may not be far off from yet another successful season.

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Top 11 for 2011: On the Field Moments of the Year

For as much as the Florida Gators were in the news off the field in 2011 (check out Friday’s post), the Gator Nation was making plenty of headlines on it as well. From breathtaking moments, game-changing and game-winning plays to winning championships and setting world records, Florida accomplished some unique athletic feats in 2011. Below are OGGOA‘s Top 11 On the Field Moments of the Year.

11 » JOHNSON, BRANTLEY, KITCHENS SUFFER SCARY INJURIES
Plenty of Florida student-athletes suffered injuries in 2011 but three in particular caused fans to gasp and remain worried about the future of said player. Participating in the semifinals of the 2011 SEC Tournament, Gators baseball wound up dropping a close game 4-3 to Georgia, a loss that forced an elimination game which Florida would later win. However, UF sophomore right-handed pitcher Brian Johnson was taken off a stretcher in the top of the first inning after giving up two earned runs and accidentally being beaned in the back of the head with the baseball by sophomore catcher Mike Zunino. Trying to pick off a runner stealing second, Zunino got his leg tangled with the batter, tripped and flung the ball into the head of a crouching Johnson. He was quickly stabilized, brought to the hospital and deemed responsive though he had a massive headache and was diagnosed with a minor three concussion (no skull fractures or bleeding). Johnson missed the entire Gainesville Regional but returned to action in the Super Regional after being sidelined for more than two weeks.

Redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley was in the middle of playing the best game of his collegiate career (despite throwing a costly pick-six) when he went down with an ugly lower leg injury at the end of the first half against Alabama. Brantley had thrown a pretty 65-yard touchdown pass to redshirt sophomore wide receiver Andre Debose on the first play of the game and was in the middle of driving Florida in for another score before being sacked twice and having his lower leg contorted the second time. Brantley was nearly immediately ruled out of the team’s next game against powerhouse LSU with a high-ankle sprain, and UF was forced to start a true freshman who had not even taken a snap in the team’s first five games in consecutive road contests against LSU and Auburn. Needless to say, the Gators lost both of those contests.

Brantley was never the same after the injury. He nearly helped Florida beat Georgia but was pretty much immobilized in the pocket and threw three interceptions in the team’s first five possessions against Florida State before being knocked out of the game with a head injury that was equally painful to watch. However, that was not the Gators’ only major injury in that game. Perhaps the scariest incident of the year came on kickoff coverage when sophomore linebacker Darrin Kitchens was hit hard from his blindside and laid motionless on the field while trainers attended to him. To this day Kitchens does not remember anything about being hit. Lucky for him, he was cleared that evening with “just” a concussion, released from the hospital and allowed to return to practice with the team just before Christmas. He is expected to play in the 2012 Gator Bowl.

10 » LACROSSE WINS FIRST CONFERENCE TITLE, REACHES ELITE EIGHT

The Florida lacrosse program has been making history since the day it signed the nation’s No. 1 ranked recruiting class prior to the team’s inaugural season in 2010. The Gators were a young but talented group and won over the school even if falling short of some of their goals one year ago. Florida took the next step in 2011, ending the regular season with an 11-0 record at home and on a 13-game winning streak. The Gators capped their stellar regular season by defeating Northwestern for the 2011 ALC Championship just 419 days after the team played its first game in school history. Florida would fall to Northwestern just over three weeks later in the finals of the 2011 ALC Tournament, splitting the season’s conference title down the middle, but took home a number of awards from the league. Sophomore midfielder Kitty Cullen won Player of the Year honors while head coach Amanda O’Leary was named Coach of the Year in just her second season. Two more players were All-ALC first team selections and three others earned spots on the second team. The ladies made it all the way to the Elite Eight of the 2011 NCAA Tournament as well before being taken down 13-9 by Duke, their only loss at home on the season. The Gators were the first program in the history of the sport to earn a berth in the NCAA Tournament in only their second year of existence and defeated some of the top teams in the country on the way to an unforgettable season that sets Florida up as a favorite heading into 2012.

Continue Reading » Top 11 for 2011: On the Field Moments of the Year

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Seniors take Gators softball to new heights

Five members of the Florida Gators softball team saw their collegiate careers come to an end Tuesday night in the final game of the 2011 Women’s College World Series. And while they may not have won the national title and are likely returning to Gainesville, FL on Wednesday with heavy hearts, their accomplishments as a senior class are unmatched in school history. Let’s take a look at their impact…

2011 Senior Class
– Compiled a 238-33 record (.878 winning percentage)
– Set a NCAA record with 70 wins in 2008 (freshman year)
– First SEC team to appear in four-straight WCWS
– Played in WCWS Championships Series twice in three years (2009, 2011)
– Won two SEC regular season and two SEC Tournament titles (2008, 2009)
– Won four-straight SEC East division titles (2008-11)

OF Kelsey Bruder
– Hit .357 (221/619) with 52 homers, 195 RBI, 185 runs scored and 103 walks
– School record for career batting average (.357)
– School record for total bases in a single season (152, 2011)
– School record for runs scored in single season (79, 2011)
– Only player in school history to hit two sacrifice flies in a single game
– 2011 NFCA First-Team All-American
– 2011 SEC Player of the Year
– 2011 WCWS All-Tournament Team
– 2009, 2011 All-SEC First Team
– 2009 SEC All-Tournament Team
– 2009 SEC All-Defensive Team

RHP Stephanie Brombacher
– Compiled a 1.50 career ERA; won 97 of 108 decisions and struck out 683 batters
– School record for career winning percentage (.898)
– School record for winning percentage in a single season (1.000 in 2008, 2009)
– Only pitcher in school history to start her career 10+ wins before suffering a loss
– 2010 All-SEC First Team
– 2009 & 2010 NFCA All-Southeast Region First Team
– 2008 SEC All-Freshman Team

1B Megan Bush
– Hit .318 (225/707) with 65 homers, 217 RBI, 138 runs scored and 113 walks
– School record for career home runs (65)
– School record for RBI in a single season (80, 2011)
– 2011 NFCA First-Team All-American
– 2010, 2011 All-SEC First Team
– 2010 SEC All-Tournament Team
– 2009 WCWS All-Tournament Team
– 2009, 2010 NFCA All-Southeast Region First Team
– 2008 SEC All-Freshman Team

C Tiffany DeFelice
– Hit .280 (132/472) with 24 homers, 106 RBI, 70 runs scored and 100 walks
– School record for career fielding percentage
– One of three players in school history to record perfect fielding percentages in a single season and the only player to do so twice
– 2008 SEC All-Freshman Team

2B Aja Paculba
– Hit .340 (279/821) with 35 homers, 176 RBI, 253 runs scored and 160 walks
– School record for career hits (279)
– School record for career runs scored (253)
– School record for career walks (160)
– School record for career stolen bases (67)
– School record for walks in a single season (49, 2009)
– School record for most walks in a single game (four, 2009)
– Longest hitting streak in school history (16, 2010)
– 2009 All-SEC First Team
– 2008-10 SEC All-Defensive Team
– 2009 SEC All-Tournament Team
– 2008 SEC All-Freshman Team

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Sun Devils sweep Gators in Women’s College World Series to capture national title

Just two years ago, Florida Gators softball entered the Women’s College World Series and fought their way to the finals before losing in back-to-back games to Washington, the top-ranked team in the country.

Two years later, No. 4 Florida powered themselves back to the WCWS Championship Series but suffered a similar fate, dropping consecutive contests to the No. 1 Arizona State Sun Devils and handing another NCAA Championship to a Pac-10 opponent.

The Gators (56-13) fell 7-2 to the Sun Devils (60-6) on Tuesday in the second and final game of the series, ending a spectacular season and great 2011 NCAA Tournament run with a thud at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium in Oklahoma City, OK.

Playing the final game of her softball career, senior right-handed pitcher Stephanie Brombacher (who has decided to retire from the sport after graduation) started the contest for Florida and got out of a tough spot in the first.

Arizona State stranded on a runner on third, but UF made sure not to follow suit in the bottom of the inning. Junior center fielder Michelle Moultrie led off by smacking a stand-up double up the middle, advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt, and crossed the plate two batters later when sophomore right fielder Brittany Schutte flied out to deep left. Moultrie’s hit tied the WCWS record for most by a single player in the event (13).

The Sun Devils made up for their missed opportunity, beginning the second with three hits and tying the game on a bases loaded walk. With one out, shortstop Katelyn Boyd singled through the right side, scoring two and giving ASU a 3-1 lead before Brombacher retired the final two batters. Arizona State increased their advantage to 5-1 in the third when designated player Alix Johnson dropped a two-RBI blooper into shallow right.

Brombacher (20-3) was pulled for freshman RHP Hannah Rogers to begin the fourth, and the young hurler got out of the top of the inning unscathed. The Gators hit three balls hard in the bottom of the inning but all resulted in long fly outs near the warning track.

ASU added another run in the fifth, scoring on a two-out RBI single, but a play at the plate ended the frame and left the Sun Devils with a 6-1 lead. Arizona State tacked on one more in the sixth courtesy of a solo homer by RF Annie Lockwood.

UF still went down fighting with senior catcher Tiffany DeFelice hitting a RBI single with two outs in the seventh to score sophomore DP Ensley Gammel, who got on base with a single of her own to lead off the inning.

Sun Devils freshman starter Dallas Escobedo (37-3) led her team throughout the event and once again in the championship series but received plenty of help on Tuesday from Boyd and Johnson, each of whom contributed three-RBI outings at the plate.

Though they posted a record-setting performance in the tournament, Florida failed in their bid to become the first Southeastern Conference team to capture a WCWS title. It was the third time in the last five years that teams from the SEC and Pac-10 went head-to-head for the championship.

2011 NCAA Tournament Honors
Co-Most Valuable Player: Michelle Moultrie
All-Tournament Team: Moultrie, Kelsey Bruder, Brittany Schutte, Cheyenne Coyle

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Sun Devils fork Gators 14-4 in game one

After absolutely dominating No. 2 Alabama on Sunday, No. 4 Florida Gators softball was on the other end of the stick Monday in game one of the 2011 Women’s College World Series Championship Series. The No. 1 Arizona State Sun Devils (59-6) scored early and often, plating runs in the first five innings of the game on the way to an 14-4 rout of the Gators (56-12) at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium in Oklahoma City, OK.

Florida was unable to cross the plate in the top of the first, leaving runners stranded on second and third. Arizona State saw UF’s blown opportunity as a positive, scoring their first run of the game by taking advantage of junior center fielder Michelle Moultrie’s fielding error to score a walked batter all the way from first.

Gators freshman right-handed pitcher Hannah Rogers (36-8) struggled mightily in the second, loading the bags with a two-out base on balls. Catcher Kaytlyn Castillo connected with a single to left to plate two, right fielder Annie Lockwood hit a blooper to right to score one more, and third baseman Krista Donnenwirth connected with a three-run homer to clear the bases and give the Sun Devils a 7-0 lead.

Arizona State increased the pressure on Florida the next inning, scoring thrice more to increase their advantage to 10-0. After the Gators left two on base in the top of the third, the Sun Devils began the bottom of the inning with back-to-back singles and a bunt to load the bases. A fielder’s choice, single to right and sacrifice fly all scored runs for ASU.

Rogers was pulled after allowing nine earned runs on nine hits with four walks (one intentional) in 2.1 innings. Senior RHP Stephanie Brombacher replaced her and retired both batters in the third to get out of the inning before allowing a solo shot in the fourth and both a two-run and solo homer with two outs in the fifth.

UF scored their first run in the sixth when senior left fielder Kelsey Bruder muscled a ball over the wall in center for a solo homer and added three more in the seventh on two more bombs. Freshman shortstop Cheyenne Coyle hit a solo shot to left to begin the inning and Moultrie jacked one to center with two outs.

Moultrie’s homer was her fourth of the WCWS, tying an event record.

While Florida only scored in the sixth and seventh, Arizona State reached home in the first five innings and plated 11 of their 14 runs with two outs. ASU starter Dallas Escobedo (36-3) was lights out for the first six innings and threw a complete game while striking out seven, walking five and scattering five hits including three homers.

The Gators and Sun Devils will go head-to-head again Tuesday at 8 p.m. in the second game of the championship series airing live on ESPN2. Should Florida win, a third and decisive game will be played Wednesday to crown a champion.

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Women’s College World Series Championship Series: No. 4 Florida vs. No. 1 Arizona State

Event: 2011 Women’s College World Series – Championship Series
Location: ASA Hall of Fame Stadium – Oklahoma City, OK [Capacity: 7,300]
Time: 8:00 p.m. (ET)

TV: ESPN2 / ESPN2HD
Online Video: ESPN3.com
Live Updates: @OnlyGators

(4) FLORIDA GATORS (1) ARIZONA STATE SUN DEVILS
Head Coach: Tim Walton Head Coach: Clint Myers
Record: 56-11 Record: 58-6
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Pacific 10
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

HISTORY and STREAKS

» Florida is making its second appearance in the WCWS in the last three years. The Gators fell in back-to-back games to Washington in 2009 and is looking for revenge against another Pac-10 opponent this time around.
» No SEC team has ever won the WCWS. It is the third time in the last five years that an SEC team will face a Pac-10 team in the WCWS championship series.
» Arizona State is the only team to defeat UF thus far in the WCWS, winning a 6-5 thriller last week with a walk-off single in the bottom of the ninth.
» Florida has scored as many runs (41) in the first four days of WCWS play as the rest of the teams in the field (seven) combined.
» The Sun Devils and the Gators boast different strengths. Arizona State leads Florida in batting average (.338-.327), fielding percentage (.984-.974), ERA (1.83-1.90) and strikeouts (400-358). However, the Gators hold advantages in home runs (118-83), RBI (464-431), slugging percentage (.591-.536) and stolen bases (102-53). UF is also out-hitting ASU in the WCWS by more than 40 points (.357-.312).
» Florida on Sunday set WCWS records for runs scored in a single inning (11), home runs in a game (four) and RBI in a game (15).

LAST TIME OUT…

UF and ASU met on Friday and slugged it out in second-round action. Arizona State came away with a hard-fought 6-5 victory on a walk-off single in the bottom of the seventh. Florida started the game down 4-0 but scored five runs in the fourth to jump ahead by one before losing it all to right fielder Annie Lockwood, who ended it with a bases loaded single. She finished the game 3-3 with a homer, three RBI and two walks.

KNOW THE OPPONENT

The Sun Devils are the top-ranked team in the country and enter on the back of freshman pitcher Dallas Escobedo, a strikeout machine who is getting it done in the WCWS with three wins and a 2.00 ERA in 21.0 innings. Arizona State’s offense has struck out just 13 times in three games and has plenty of power with Lockwood, Katelyn Boyd, Mandy Urfer and Krista Donnenwirth.

KEEP AN EYE ON…

» Senior left fielder Kelsey Bruder…who has already set a WCWS event record for most runs scored (nine) and has been a catalyst for Florida’s offense all season long. She is hitting .625 (5-8) at the WCWS with a homer, four RBI, nine runs and eight walks.
» Sophomore right fielder Brittany Schutte…who set the Gators’ single-season home run record with her 21st and 22nd bombs on Sunday. She has hit five moon shots in eight career WCWS games.
» Junior centerfielder Michelle Moultrie…UF’s speedster leadoff hitter who has hit more home runs (three) in the WCWS than she did the rest of the season (two). Moultrie is hitting .611 at the WCWS and is 11-18 with five RBI and seven runs. She is one homer away from tying the WCWS record.
» Right-handed pitchers senior Stephanie Brombacher and freshman Hannah Rogers…who are sharing duties on the mound for Florida. Brombacher had her best outing in recent memory early on Sunday, and Rogers pitched six shutout innings that evening before being tagged for a pair of runs.
» Escobedo…Arizona State’s dominant pitcher who may start every game in the series unless the Gators prove that they are able to light her up.
» Lockwood…whose stellar performance on Friday eventually won the Sun Devils the game against Florida, sending the Gators to three-straight elimination games.
» Urfer…who leads all batters on both teams in average, hitting .667 (4-6) with two homers, five RBI and four walks through three WCWS contests.

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Gators use 11-run first inning to dismantle Tide 16-2 in record-setting WCWS game

It started just like a normal softball game. The top of the first ended without much fanfare and the No. 4 Florida Gators were looking to put some runs on the board in the bottom of the inning to take an early lead. No one knew what was coming, especially the No. 2 Alabama Crimson Tide, who were looking to eliminate Florida from the 2011 Women’s College World Series with a victory early Sunday afternoon at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium in Oklahoma City, OK.

What followed was a record-setting performance for the Gators (55-11), which scored 11 runs in the bottom of the first and demolished the Crimson Tide (53-10) 16-2 to stave off elimination in a five-inning run-ruled game.

Junior center fielder Michelle Moultrie got things started for Florida with a solo shot to center. Senior catcher Tiffany DeFelice (1-3, R) singled to center and was joined on the bags by senior left fielder Kelsey Bruder and sophomore right fielder Brittany Schutte, who were each walked to load the bases.

Freshman shortstop Cheyenne Coyle was hit by a pitch to score another run, and senior second baseman Aja Paculba (1-2, RBI, 2 R, BB) was walked to plate a third and end the day of Alabama pitcher Kelsi Dunne, who was replaced by Jackie Traina.

Traina started her effort by walking sophomore designated player Ensley Gammel and allowing freshman third baseman Kasey Fagan to hit an RBI single, putting the Gators ahead 6-0. All of Dunne’s base runners scored, giving her six earned runs on two hits with three walks and a hit batter in just 0.1 inning.

A double steal attempt with Fagan (1-2, 2 RBI, R, SB) and Gammel allowed the latter to cross the plate, and a single up the middle from Moultrie (2-3, HR, RBI, 2 R, SB) put runners on the corners before she swiped second. With two outs, Bruder (0-0, 3 R, 3 BB) walked on four-straight pitches to load the bases for Schutte (1-1, GS, 4 RBI, 3 R, 2 BB), who took advantage of the opportunity with a grand slam to conclude the 11-run frame.

Florida set a WCWS record with 11 runs in a single inning, snapping the mark previously held by UCLA against UF (nine, 2010). The Orange and Blue also tattooed Alabama for more runs in one inning than they’ve given up in a single game all season. The Crimson Tide gave the Gators six free passes in the inning, walking five batters and hitting one.

Alabama got on the board in the top of the second with a solo shot to right, but Gammel (1-2, HR, 3 RBI, 2 R, SB, BB) responded with a two-run homer in the bottom of the inning to put Florida ahead 13-1. Traina was pulled at the end of the inning, leaving after coughing up seven earned runs on five hits with three walks in 1.2 innings of work.

The Gators continued their onslaught in the third when Coyle’s (1-1, HR, 4 RBI, 2 R, BB) three-run bomb gave them a 16-1 advantage and tied the WCWS single-game record for team homers in a game (four). Florida’s 15 RBI were also a WCWS single-game record, and the 16 runs scored by UF through three innings are the most given up in a single game by UA softball in school history.

Senior right-handed pitcher Stephanie Brombacher (20-2) went the entire way for the Gators, striking out seven while allowing two runs on solo homers. She only gave up three hits and did not walk a single batter in five innings.

Florida and Alabama, each having now lost a game in the WCWS, will square off Sunday evening at 7 p.m. in an elimination game. The victor will move on to the WCWS Championship Series, which begins on Monday at 8 p.m. and airs live on ESPN2.

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Arizona State walks off with 6-5 win over Florida in Women’s College World Series

The game may have begun Friday night but no conclusion was reached until early Saturday morning as No. 4 Florida Gators softball and the No. 1 Arizona State Sun Devils fought back-and-forth hoping to earn a victory in their second game of the 2011 Women’s College World Series. ASU (57-6) eventually came away with a 6-5 win over UF (53-11) at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium in Oklahoma City, OK, getting the final say in the matter with a walk-off single in the final frame of the game.

Read the game story and find out about Saturday’s contest…after the break!
Continue Reading » Arizona State walks off with 6-5 win over Florida in Women’s College World Series

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