SOFTBALL: ND ends Gator win streak at 11 games

It took almost two weeks and a span of 12 games but the number 19-ranked Florida Gators softball team finally tasted defeat.

With their school record 11-0 season start on the line Sunday, the Gators couldn't solve Notre Dame's Heather Booth who pitched the Irish to a 4-2 victory in the championship game of the GRU Classic. Booth allowed only one earned run in the complete game performance as she outdueled Florida's sophomore ace, Stacey Stevens, now 5-1.

"Booth did a great job pitching and she changed speeds a lot and kept us off balance," Coach Karen Johns said. "We weren't real sharp defensively and that last run we gave up really took away our momentum."

Florida took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning but Notre Dame came back to tie the score in the top of the third. In the fifth, the Irish put together a two-run rally that knocked Stevens out of the box. Mandy Schuerman came on to put out the fire in relief. She would go the rest of the way for Florida.

The Gators cut the Notre Dame lead to 3-2 in the bottom of the sixth when shortstop Lauren Roussell broke out of a slump with a double to the wall that drove in Nikki Baldwin. Kristen Butler followed with a walk, but Booth struck out Savanna Kelly and then battled Shelley Stevens for 10 pitches before getting an inning-ending strikeout.

In the top of the sixth, Shuerman gave up her first earned run of the year as Notre Dame added an insurance run.

Despite the loss, Johns found plenty of positive aspects in a weekend home stand in which they finished 4-1.

"We were in every game and there wasn't a moment in any game that we didn't think we could win," she said. "A bunch of the new kids played some great roles. (Freshman) Mary Ratliff came in and had some great at bats. We have great unity and karma coming from this team."

"It was great to watch Lauren come around, because the bottom of the order was really carrying us there," Johns said. "Notre Dame just played a great game and I'm not going to take anything away from them."

The first loss is no reason for the team to hang their head's and Johns thinks it could even be a blessing in disguise.

"They didn't appear like they were pressured by the streak and we don't really focus on that as a group," she said. "It would be nice to have a crystal ball to see to next Monday to tell how it will affect us."

The Gators will trip to Las Vegas next weekend for the UNLV Tournament against Cal, UNLV, Iowa State, Michigan State and Southern Illinois.

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