SOFTBALL: Gators win two in Clearwater

The University of Florida Softball team (4-0), won two games in the opening day of the Clearwater Invitational. Florida defeated Appalachian State 11-2 in six innings and Louisville 3-2 in a game with a thrilling ending.

Florida went to work early in the first inning against Appalachian State. Lead off hitter junior Stacie Pestrak (Gainesville, Fla.) started the Gators with a base hit to left field, then stole second on the first pitch to the next batter. Sophomore Shelley Stevens followed with an infield base hit to the short stop, advancing Pestrak to third. Pestrak scored the Gators first run on an attempted sacrifice fly by sophomore Melissa Zick (Tampa, Fla.). The left fielder dropped the ball allowing Zick to advance to second and Stevens to third. Junior Kristen Butler (Orlando, Fla.) knocked a sacrifice fly deep into center field to score Stevens. Junior Lindsey Cameron (Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.) reached on a fielder's choice as the Cardinals attempted to make the out at home, but Zick was safe for Florida's third run of the inning. Sophomore Lauren Roussell (Cerritos, Calif.) hit a stand up double to right center field to score Cameron. Sophomore Michelle Diaz (West Palm Beach, Fla.) hit a single to score Roussell to give Florida the 5-0 lead.

Appalachian State threatened in the bottom of the first inning, as they loaded the bases with only one out. Freshman Savana Kelly (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.) cleanly fielded a ball and second to throw Lindsay Glover out at home for the second out. Dawn Malone flew out to Diaz in right field to end the inning.

The Gators added to their lead in the second inning. Pestrak led off the inning again with a base hit to right center field. Stevens followed with a base hit up the middle. Zick drove both Pestrak and Stevens in with a double to center field. Butler singled through the left side to score Zick and advanced to second as the Mountaineer defense attempted to throw Zick out at home. Cameron doubled to center to give Florida the 9-0 lead.

The Mountaineers scored their two runs in the bottom of the third inning. Glover lead off the inning with a double. Billye Rivas followed with a single to center. Glover stole home on the double steal to give Appalachian State their first score. Rivas scored on a Diana Cook double down the right field line to make the score 9-2.

Florida scored its final two runs in the top of the sixth. Butler led off the inning with a base hit. Cameron followed with a double to left field, advancing Butler to third. Butler came in on a Roussell sacrifice fly. Cameron scored the Gators final run on a Diaz base hit up the middle to give Florida the nine-tun advantage and end the game due to the eight-run rule.

Senior Amanda Knowles earned the win, improving her record to 2-0 on the season. She also had an at bat in the game, only the second in her collegiate career. Mandy Schuerman pitched three innings of relief and struck out five of the nine batters she faced.

The Gators also took it to Louisville early in the second game of the day. In the bottom half of the first frame, Pestrak got the Gators started with a walk. She advanced to second on a Stevens sacrifice bunt. Zick reached on a fielder's choice as the Louisville defense tried unsuccessfully to get Pestrak at third. Zick stole second and Butler walked to load the bases with only one out in the inning. Cameron reached on a fielder's choice as Pestrak was thrown out at home, but a throwing error by the catcher trying to get another out allowed Zick to score and give the Gators a 1-0 lead. An Aja Sherman wild pitch brought Butler in from third for the second run of the inning.

Louisville tied the game in the top half of the fourth. Candi Hicks led off with a double to center. Sara Bausher followed with a two run homer to tie the game at 2-2. Florida pitcher Stacey Stevens was able to shake it off though and struck out three of the next five batters she faced.

Florida took the lead again in the bottom of the fifth. Junior Lindsay Norfleet (Madison, Fla.) led off with a hard hit single through the left side of the infield. She advanced to second on a Pestrak sacrifice bunt. Shelley Stevens hit in the ball in nearly the same place Norfleet did just two batters earlier. Norfleet advanced to third and rounded to head home, but was gunned down at the plate by the Louisville left fielder for the second out of the inning. Zick knocked another single through the left side and it looked as if Stevens would be in for the same fate as Norfleet as she reached third and headed home. The throw was not as accurate this time though and Stevens scored to give Florida the one run lead.

Louisville loaded the bases in the top of the sixth, but the Florida defense was able to take care of business and not allow the Cardinals to plate any runs.

In the top of the seventh, the Gator defense polished off the first two batters and needed just one more run to end the game. Audrey Rendon was due up, previously 0-for-3 on the day. Rendon stepped up and found the Gator defense shifted to the left side of the field, leaving a big hole in right. She dropped the ball right in that hole and took off. She touched first, touched second, touched third and rounded as her coach sent her home. The Gator defense was one step ahead though, as centerfielder Stevens rushed to the ball threw the ball to Cameron who was just in the outfield grass between first and second. Cameron b-lines the relay right to catcher Butler who had time to set up for the tag as Rendon was coming. Butler held her ground for the out to preserve the 3-2 win.

Stacey Stevens earned the win in her first appearance of the season. She struck out four batters in the win.

Florida is now 4-0 on the season. They will face Florida Atlantic Saturday at 2:30 p.m. and number four Oklahoma at 5 p.m. Both games will be broadcast live on via No live stats will be available for the game.

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