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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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.

Continue Reading » 2012 Florida Gators softball primer: Build it up

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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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UF’s Kelsey Bruder wins Honda Sports Award

Florida Gators senior left fielder Kelsey Bruder was named the 2011 Honda Sports Award winner for softball on Tuesday, an honor which recognizes her as the nation’s top collegiate athlete in the sport. She earned the achievement after a national balloting of the 1,000 NCAA member institutions was conducted by the organization.

“Winning the Honda Award is such an incredible honor. To be recognized as the best player in college softball seems absolutely surreal and I could not be more grateful to be among both the past and present Honda Sports Award nominees and recipients,” Bruder said in an official release from the University of Florida. “Receiving this award would not have been possible without every single one of my teammates. The dedication of our players is extremely admirable and has motivated me to create an even better work ethic. I am so blessed to have played with these tremendous athletes. I’m confident we will continue to build upon the tradition of success associated with the University of Florida.”

Bruder, who finished her final season in the Orange and Blue batting .387 with 19 homers, 71 RBI, 79 runs and 48 walks, is now in contention for the Collegiate Female Athlete of the Year Award and Honda-Broderick Cup (presented to The Collegiate Woman Athlete of the Year).

She also captured 2011 Southeastern Conference Player of the Year honors in May after leading the SEC in seven categories (home runs, RBI, hits, runs, doubles, total bases, slugging percentage) and was named to the 2011 Women’s College World Series All-Tournament Team.

With the award, the two-time All-American earned a $5,000 donation from Honda to the general women’s athletic program at UF.

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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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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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