NCAA SOFTBALL: Gators Fall To FAU, 2-0

The Florida Gators (42-24) entered the NCAA Softball Tournament Regional ready to put their recent disappointing showing in the SEC Tournament behind them but Florida Atlantic's Jen Musillo had other ideas. Musillo struck out 11 and allowed only three hits as the Owls took a 2-0 win over Florida Friday evening at the Florida Softball Stadium.

The loss sends the Gators into a Saturday afternoon (2:30) elimination game against North Carolina, which lost to South Florida, 2-1, in Friday's other regional game.

The Gators and Owls went scoreless for six innings but in the top of the seventh, Florida Atlantic (34-23) scratched out a two-run rally and that was all FAU needed.

In the top of the seventh, the Owls got the rally started when Danielle Arriaga coaxed a one-out walk off of Stacey Stevens (20-8). Pinch-runner Lauren Crandall advanced to second on a single to left by Mandie Fishback. A Kala Guy single down the right field line scored Crandall with what proved to be the game-winner.

Stevens pitched brilliantly for six innings but the walk in the seventh proved her undoing.

"All year we've talked about how walking batters gives teams too many chances," Stevens said. "The hits are gonna happen but the walks we have to eliminate."

The Gators compounded their situation in the seventh when Jeana Lopez, in to run for Fishback, scored the second run for the Owls on a Florida error in a rundown play.

"One down is a lot easier to come back from two, but we had plenty of opportunities to get it going," Florida Coach Tim Walton said.

Melissa Zick got hit by a pitch in Florida's half of the seventh but the Gators couldn't mount a rally. Three straight pop-outs sent them tumbling into the losers' bracket.

Florida's only real scoring opportunity came in the fourth inning. Kim Waleszonia reached on a bunt single to start the inning and advanced to second on a wild pitch. Waleszonia advanced to third on a fly out by Kristen Butler but Musillo (12-7) struck out the next two batters to kill the threat.

"When you get an opportunity like that, runner on third base and one out and your four-five [hitters] coming up your feeling pretty good," Walton said. "Hopefully we get the ball on the ground and give ourselves a chance but we didn't."

Earlier in the season the Gators defeated FAU in a five inning 9-1 victory but FAU Coach Joan Joyce stressed that injuries played a huge part in that loss and this was a different team the Gators were facing.

"The team that Florida saw in February and the team that was playing out there today was not even close to being the same team," Joyce said.

If the Gators can get past North Carolina in the elimination game Saturday afternoon, they will play the loser of South Florida-FAU in the evening. The regional final will be played Sunday.

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