SOFTBALL: Unbeaten Gators in GRU Tourney final

Momentum is a marvelous thing for Coach Karen Johns and the Florida Gators softball team. The Gators came into the GRU Classic already off to the hottest start of any team in UF softball history, but with two more wins Saturday, the Gators are 11-0 and just one victory away from winning the tournament championship.

The number 19 nationally-ranked Gators extended their unbeaten streak to 11 Saturday with a 7-5 win over South Florida and a 5-2 win over Coastal Carolina. Florida will play the winner of Sunday morning's Notre Dame-South Florida game at 12:30 p.m. for the tournament title.

To win the two games Saturday, the Gators put together big innings that made the difference. Florida got all seven of its runs against South Florida in the second inning and then the Gators rallied for five runs in the final two innings against Coastal to continue the winning streak.

"We're disappointed because we try to win every inning one by one, but to score in big bunches is a nice thing," Johns said. "I don't think we've ever scored seven runs in one inning but our mental approach is that we are a consistent one through seven right now."

Down 2-0 against South Florida, first baseman Melissa Zick got the rally going with a solo home run. A bases loaded walk and pinch-hitter Mary Ratliff's two-run single put the Gators in front 4-2. Left fielder Lindsey Cameron continued her hot streak by hitting a bases clearing double that brought speedy third baseman Stacie Pestrak all the way home to complete the scoring for the Gators.

The phrase "speed kills" couldn't apply more to this undefeated Gator team that feeds off the momentum of constant base running action coupled with solid hitters.

"[Improving our speed] is something that we really have been building towards in our program for the offensive philosophy we like to use," Johns said. "Not only do they have speed, but they are also pretty talented hitters so that has helped us a lot."

.Stacey Stevens (5-0) picked up the victory for the Gators with a complete game performance.

In the second game against Coastal Carolina, UF's four errors almost cost the Gators an entry into Sunday's championship game. Pitcher Mandy Shuerman helped her own cause with a solo home run, and Melissa Zick's second home run of the day sealed the victory for the late rallying Gators.

"I was very frustrated with our defense in the second game and it is as poor a performance as I've seen from us since I can remember," Johns said. "I'm proud that our team made the adjustments at the plate to get us back in it, and Amanda Knowles really did a good job of coming in and closing that game out."

The Gators will be out to extend their winning streak to 12 games Sunday when they face either Notre Dame or South Florida.

"Each team presents a little bit of a different challenge as far as how we are going to pitch and how we approach the plate," Johns said. "Most of the things we will do though will remain the same as to what we are trying to accomplish."

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