Florida Loses Game, Three Players

Before taking the field for Friday's opener in the Gainesville Regional, No. 5 Florida was loaded with distractions. Three starters—Cheyenne Coyle, Kasey Fagan and Sami Fagan—were all held out of the lineup for undisclosed reasons, and head coach Tim Walton announced after the game that they were off the team for the remainder of the year.

The news for the Gators didn't get better on the field, as they dropped a 2-1 decision to Florida Gulf Coast on Friday.

"The three that weren't on the field today are no longer with us," Walton said after the loss. "I'm handling that internally."

The decision put Florida without three of its starter. Shortstop Cheyenne Coyle, third baseman Sami Fagan and right fielder Kasey Fagan weren't with the team on Friday and won't be with the group for the rest of the year.

It forced Walton to be creative.

He moved Katie Medina to shortstop, Sam Holle to third base and played Brittany Schutte in right field in his first game since returning from a broken jaw on March 2.

"I would be crazy to say it didn't affect the team," Walton said of the three players being off the team for the remainder of the year. "When you're a team and work hard through your season, losing any teammate (is a distraction)."

The Gators move to the loser's bracket of the Gainesville Regional and will take on UCF at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday.

Freshman Shelby Morgan stifled the Florida offense. She allowed five hits and two walks while giving up just one run in a complete game on the mound.

Lauren Haeger got the Gators on the board and tied the game with a two-out RBI single in the third inning, but that's all the Florida offense could do.

"She's just off-speed with slow pitches and a good mix," Walton said. "She did a great job. The couple hits we got were outside pitches that we pulled. She had a different presence than we've seen in the last month."

In Florida's last chance at the plate, the Gators sent three hitters—Briana Little, Ensley Gammel and Michelle Moultrie—to the plate. Each of the hitters swung and was out after hitting the first pitch. The three-pitch inning secured Florida's loss.

"I don't fault their effort," Walton said. "They're going out there trying to get on base. Typically in that situation, you might have Michelle take one to make it at least four pitches, but as good as Michelle is, she's capable of changing the ball game with one swing. I let her swing away."

The one positive for Florida was Schutte. She hit fifth in the lineup and went 0-2 with a walk and a strikeout but received a loud, lengthy applause from the Florida fans in attendance during her first at-bat.

Schutte was hit in the face with an errant throw on March 2 that broke her jaw and caused her to miss every game before Friday. Regardless of her performance, Walton was just happy to get his All-American back on the field.

"Brittany Schutte is back playing softball again, and that's one of the biggest bright spots on this team this season—to have an All-American come back on that field to help us try to win a ballgame," Walton said. "There was nothing negative about that. Everything was positive.

"Hopefully she'll have a better day tomorrow, but if she doesn't, she can go through the summer knowing she got back on the horse again and was able to give the Gators a chance to win and give us her all. I was really happy to have her back out there today."

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