Gators Watch Season End in Upset Loss to USF

The situation couldn't have been more difficult for USF sophomore ace Sara Nevins. The Gators loaded the bases against her in the sixth inning with no outs, while the Bulls were clinging to a one-run lead. USF head coach Ken Eriksen made his way to the mound for a talk that ended much quicker than he expected. He kept the left-hander in, and Nevins completed the shutout of the Gators.

"I walked out to the mound with the bases loaded, and she looked at me and said, "I've got it." It makes it easy for me to sleep tonight knowing we've got somebody that cool out there," Eriksen said.

Nevins was right. She made it look easy, recording back-to-back strikeouts of Samantha Holle and Jess Damico before inducing a groundout from Briana Little to end the inning.

It was Florida's best shot at getting on the scoreboard, but the Gators never did, as USF pulled off the 1-0 upset win to advance from the Gainesville Regional. USF will now wait for the winner of the Los Angeles Regional and likely host a Super Regional in Tampa next weekend.

The loss meant the end of the season for a young Florida team, but it's also the end of a career for their senior leader—center fielder Michelle Moultrie.

"It's obviously sad when you lose, but it's more sad because we'll lose (Moultrie)," Florida head coach Tim Walton said. "She's not only a great story, but a great player, great athlete and a great alumni of the University of Florida."

Moultrie went 2-4 with a stolen base to end her career. The one run that USF scored started on a double that tipped off her outstretched glove to start the fourth inning. She crashed into the wall just after the ball hit her glove but jumped up and threw the ball in before the runner could get to third.

USF would score its lone run on a two-out, infield single to third base that Kenshyra Jackson beat out to allow the run to score.

The bases loaded chance is the one strong chance Florida had to get on the board.

"It was a chance," Walton said. "It was an opportunity. I'm not a mathematician, but I know that when more batters come to the plate, the more opportunities the top of the lineup has a chance to bat in the seventh inning.

"They were fighting. That stuff right there happened all season. Our team batting average is at its lowest with bases loaded. That was the exclamation point to a season of young players putting pressure on themselves in that situation with the bases loaded."

Nevins maintained her strong outing, throwing a shout out and allowing five hits and three walks while striking out 12 Florida hitters.

"She throws hard and has a good mix of pitches," Walton said. "She's left-handed and tall. She changed speeds enough. The one thing you can tell is the ball she throws is heavy. It's hard to elevate and lift. She's competitive."

The weekend was marred with controversy for Florida. Three Florida starters—shortstop Cheyenne Coyle, right fielder Kasey Fagan and third baseman Sami Fagan—were suspended from the team on Friday. It took away three starters from the lineup and caused a distraction for the team.

"It was definitely a distraction for me," Moultrie said. "It's a big part of our team, so it was hard for me. I'm really close to those girls, so it's a hard thing when you lose anyone."

The Gators fought throughout the weekend but didn't have enough offense to move to the Super Regionals. There was still plenty of respect for Florida in the opposite dugout.

"I thought that Coach Walton did his best coaching this year," Ericksen said.

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