Florida softball eliminated from NCAA Tourney; Walton speaks on suspension decision

A tumultuous weekend and up-and-down season came to a conclusion for No. 5 Florida Gators softball as the team fell 1-0 to the South Florida Bulls and failed in their bid to advance out of the Gainesville Regional in the 2012 NCAA Tournament.

Florida (48-13) lost the first game of the regional but won consecutive contests in the loser’s bracket on Saturday to move on to the finals against USF (48-11). The Gators were hoping to win and force a second game on Sunday but instead lost the contest and failed to reach the Women’s College World Series for the fifth-straight season.

Sophomore right-hander Hannah Rogers (28-8) got the nod to start and pitched a complete game, allowing one earned run on four hits with no walks and four strikeouts in 7.0 innings. Her lone blemish came in the top of the fourth when an infield single allowed the Bulls to score what would end up being the game-deciding run.

Rogers’s complete game performance was matched by South Florida starter Sara Nevens, who allowed five hits and three walks but struck out 12 including two important batters in the bottom of the sixth inning.

Florida rallied to load the bases with no one out but failed to cross the plate as Nevins struck out consecutive batters and forced an infield groundout to get out of the frame unscathed.

Senior center fielder Michelle Moultrie, playing her last game in orange and blue, was the only Florida batter to register more than one hit as she went 2-for-4 on the afternoon. She concluded her UF career as the team’s all-time leader in batting average (.385), stolen bases (83) and stolen base attempts (99). Moultrie also picked up a number of awards during her tenure with the Gators including 2010 SEC Player of the Year, 2011 WCWS Co-Most Outstanding Player, 2011 WCWS All-Tournament Team and a number of All-American honors.

It is the first time since 2006 that Florida did not move on to the Super Regional.

Though he did not get into specifics regarding the incident that led to him eventually suspending three of his starters, head coach Tim Walton spoke more about the general situation following Sunday’s loss at Pressly Softball Stadium in Gainesville, FL.

Continue Reading » Florida softball eliminated from NCAA Tourney; Walton speaks on suspension decision

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Florida softball falls 2-1 to FGCU in Gainesville Regional; three players suspended, one returns

Friday was a rough day for No. 5 Florida Gators softball, which not only lost 2-1 to the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles in the second game of the 2012 NCAA Gainesville Regional at Pressly Softball Stadium but did so without three of their star players.

Prior to the game, head coach Tim Walton announced that junior shortstop Cheyenne Coyle, sophomore outfielder Kasey Fagan and freshman third baseman Sami Fagan were suspended for undisclosed reasons. He said following the contest that the situation is being handled internally but that the trio is suspended indefinitely for the remainder of the season and could be kicked off the team permanently.

More definitive on the subject was Kevin Fagan, the father of Kasey and Sami, who told the Ocala Star-Banner the three players are no longer with the team and are “free to go anywhere they want.” He added that “an altercation on the team…[left] the team sort of divided and Walton felt like it was in his best interest to get rid of those three.”

It was not all bad news for Florida before the game, however, as the Gators also learned junior catcher Brittany Schutte would return after missing more than two months of action with a broken jaw. Schutte went 0/2 with a walk.

FGCU (38-22) got on the board first as Florida (46-12) sophomore right-handed pitcher Hannah Rogers gave up a solo home run in the top of the second. The Gators tied things up in the bottom of the next inning, rallying to score a run brought home by a single from freshman first baseman Lauren Haeger (2/3, RBI).

The Gators and Eagles stayed tied at 1-1 for the next two innings, but Florida Gulf Coast went back on top in the sixth as Rogers (27-7, 7.0 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 8 K) coughed up her second solo homer of the game. Florida was unable to answer and lost the game, which dropped them into the loser’s bracket of their own regional.

UF has lost seven of their last 11 games and now must win four-straight contests to advance to the Super Regional portion of the 2012 NCAA Tournament. Florida will face Central Florida at 3:30 p.m. in an elimination game for the opportunity to advance to a second elimination game immediately following the contest at 6 p.m.

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Florida softball passes road test in Palm Springs

Participating in the 2012 Cathedral City Classic at the Big League Dreams Sports Complex in Palm Springs, CA over the long weekend, No. 1 Florida Gators softball (13-1) won four of the five games they played and went 2-1 against top 25-ranked opponents. Though Florida may get knocked down from their top ranking when the new polls are released Tuesday, the Gators still found plenty of success over the weekend.

Florida started the event with back-to-back games against top competition on Thursday afternoon. UF defeated the No. 16 Texas A&M Aggies in a 1 p.m. start before falling to the No. 5 Washington Huskies at 3:30 p.m.

The Gators scored six runs on five hits in the early contest, using sharp hitting from junior catcher Brittany Schutte (1-2, 2 RBI, R, SB) and senior center fielder Michelle Moultrie (1-2, HR, RBI, 2 R, BB) to help propel them to a 6-5 victory. Sophomore right-handed pitcher Hannah Rogers pitched a complete game, striking out seven while giving up four earned runs (three in the top of the seventh) on nine hits with two walks.

Freshman RHP Lauren Haeger suffered her first loss of the season in the latter contest, allowing five runs (three earned) on three hits with two walks and five strikeouts in 5.0 innings. Washington led 1-0 through 2.5 innings, but Florida took a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the third after a triple from freshman second baseman Katie Medina (2-3, RBI, R) and a single by freshman third baseman Sami Fagan (2-4, RBI) sent two runs in. UF would not score again, leaving six on base over the course of the contest), as UW scored pairs of runs in the top of the fifth and six to pull away with a 5-2 win.

Gators head coach Tim Walton gave Haeger an immediate opportunity for redemption, throwing her in the team’s 1 p.m. game against the Brigham Young Cougars on Friday. Florida took down BYU 3-0 thanks partially to Haeger (4-1), who struck out five while scattering five hits and two walks in six innings. Fellow freshman RHP Alyssa Bache came on for the final inning, striking out two to earn her first save of the season. UF scored all three of their runs on two dingers including a solo shot by junior designated hitter Ensley Gammel (1-3, RBI, R) and a two-run bomb by sophomore shortstop Cheyenne Coyle (1-2, 2 RBI, R, BB, SB) one inning later.

Gammel and Coyle found their power strokes again in the Gators’ second match-up on Friday, a 5-1 victory over the No. 8 Texas Longhorns. Florida got to the plate in the top of the first, but Texas matched the score with a run of their own in the bottom of the second. Gammel (1-3, RBI, R) and Coyle (1-3 RBI, R) then each connected on home runs in the top of the fourth, vaulting UF ahead of UT permanently. Haeger (1-2, 2 RBI) and Schutte (0-2, RBI, BB, SB) were responsible for the other runs in the game, while Rogers only gave up four hits while striking out eight in a complete game outing that did not include an earned run.

Rogers (8-0) earned her third win in as many days on Saturday by striking out five and scattering five hits with only one walk in a complete game outing as the Gators took down the Boise State Broncos 3-0 to close out their road trip. Schutte (1-3, 2 RBI) hit a two-RBI single in the top of the first to give Florida an early advantage, and junior right fielder Kelsey Horton (1-3, RBI, R) smacked a solo homer in the fifth to extend UF’s lead.

It should come as no surprise that some of the team’s best performers over the weekend – Schutte, Coyle, Gammel and Medina – all hail from the state of California.

The Gators returned to Gainesville, FL on Saturday and will remain in town by hosting an event next weekend. Florida will take on Eastern Michigan on Thursday before competing in the Lipton Invitational from March 2-4. UF will take on EMU again on Friday as part of the event along with Gardner-Webb (twice), Tennessee State and Campbell. The Gators are set to open Southeastern Conference play on March 7.

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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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NCAA wags finger at Florida Gators softball

The NCAA on Friday publicly reprimanded Florida Gators softball head coach Tim Walton and former outfielder Kelsey Bruder for voicing their displeasure about the officiating following the first game of the 2011 Women’s College World Series Championship Series against the Arizona State Sun Devils.

The NCAA said Walton and Bruder violated the organization’s sportsmanship policy on June 6 when the coach and player criticized home plate umpire Chris Drumm for being inconsistent on balls and strikes during Florida’s at bats and failing to correctly call a hit by pitch in the first inning of the series’ first game.

UF had their eyes on Drumm the whole game because they felt she had made similar inconsistent and questionable calls in the Gators’ second-round contest against the Sun Devils three days earlier. Arizona State won that game 6-5, sending Florida into the elimination round where they had to win three-straight games just to qualify for the championship series. UF won those games by a combined score of 30-6.

The Sun Devils swept the Gators in consecutive games (14-4, 7-2) to win the title.

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WCWS: Gators question officiating after game

Questionable, inconsistent and often bewildering calls were made behind home plate during No. 4 Florida Gators softball’s 6-5 loss to the No. 1 Arizona State Sun Devils on Friday. So when Florida stepped onto the field Monday for the first game of the 2011 Women’s College World Series Championship Series only to find umpire Chris Drumm behind home plate once again, they could only wonder how the officiating might play out.

The Gators got their answer right away when senior catcher Tiffany DeFelice was plunked by a pitch on her right forearm but Drumm refused to send her to first base and call a hit by pitch. Instead, she claimed the knob of DeFelice’s bat hit the ball first and sent her back to the plate even though head coach Tim Walton passionately argued otherwise. DeFelice, with a runner on first and no one out, flied out just a few pitches later.

In the bottom of the first, Drumm’s calls on balls and strikes were equally questionable and likely influenced Arizona State’s ability to score their first run of the game. Her inconsistent strike zone seemed to play a role throughout the remainder of the contest.

At the post-game press conference, DeFelice and senior left fielder Kelsey Bruder spoke candidly about Drumm’s performance behind the plate. Below are some comments made by the players as well as a response from NCAA director of championships Sharon Cessna, as transcribed by Jeff Latzke of the Associated Press:

Bruder: “I’m looking forward to playing ASU without her behind the plate. I’m going to try to be as nice as possible, but I hope that whoever appoints her reevaluates her abilities. I’m not making any excuses. ASU absolutely kicked our butts and they deserved to win today, but it was really hard adjusting to the inconsistent calls.”

DeFelice: “[The ball] didn’t hit the bat at all. I don’t know if bone sounds like bat, but it hit me square in the arm. It swelled up like a snowball. I had to have my trainer wrap it up. I mean, it was a rough night with that umpire and it was rough night first time we had her too.”

Cessna: “I don’t think I have to defend [Drumm]. I think she called the game as she saw it. Because it may not have met the expectations or if they felt like they had an issue with her in a previous game and they came in with preconceived notions, that can happen both ways as well. I’m not necessarily going to defend her because I think she called the game as she saw it, and that’s what we ask them to do. She’s one of the six best umpires that we have, because we bring our best here.”

After returning to the hotel, Bruder felt it was necessary to clarify her post-game comments and published the following via her Twitter account: “Just so were all clear about the press conference, I have credit to asu and will again. THEY KICKED OUR BUTTS. they were better tonight. All I’m asking for is a fair strike zone for my pitchers and hitters. Again, this is not an excuse. I just want a fair shot.”

Florida rebounded from Friday’s loss to ASU by claiming victories in three consecutive elimination games. The Gators will face two more in the coming days if they hope to fight back and claim a WCWS title.

Photo Credit: Associated Press

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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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