SOFTBALL: FAU Ends Florida's Season

Runs were hard to come by Saturday for the Florida Gators, who saw their softball season come to an end at the hands of an old nemesis, Florida Atlantic. The Gators (43-25) avoided elimination in the NCAA Regional Tournament in the afternoon by blanking North Carolina, 1-0, but FAU came back Saturday evening to hand UF a 1-0 loss, marking the second time since 2003 that the Owls have finished off the Gators in the NCAA Tournament.

"Kind of a bad way to end the season for a lot of people but I thought our kids played hard and I think that's the first step, the program's really gonna take off in the next two years," Florida Coach Tim Walton said.

FAU got the only run of the game in the fourth inning off Stacey Stevens. Mandie Fishback drew a walk to start inning. Jenna Lopez, in to run for Fishback, was sacrificed to second by Kala Guy. Amy Buckovich followed with a single to right field that sent Lopez home just ahead of the throw.

It was a very close play at the plate, but Walton thought the umpire got it right.

"She was safe, just barely but she was safe," he said.

FAU kept Florida's hitters off stride throughout the game. Starting pitcher Kathryn Stauffer gave the Owls three solid innings before she was relieved by Jen Musillo in the fourth. Musillo, who mowed down Florida Friday evening, struck out five Gators to earn the save.

FAU Coach Joan Joyce was confident her team would pull out the win when Musillo entered the game.

"Jen came in the game and basically shut them down again," she said.

Florida only had one serious threat and that was in the sixth when a pair of hit batters helped the Gators load the bases with two out. Musillo didn't break under the pressure, however. She ended the inning with a strikeout and then finished off Florida's season by striking out all three Florida batters in the seventh.

Pestrak, a senior, was visibly tired and disappointed with her team's quick exit from the tournament.

"Our heart was in it," she said. "We were trying to do it, maybe just a little too hard. Everybody up there wanted to do it we just couldn't get it done."

In the first game the Gators freshman pitcher Stacey Nelson pitched a career high eight innings, striking out five and allowing only three hits to defeat UNC 1-0.

Florida pulled the win out in the eighth on a critical North Carolina throwing error. Pestrak walked on four straight pitches and Butler tried to bunt her to second but the Carolina third baseman threw the ball away and Pestrak raced around the bases to score the winning run.

Florida squandered several opportunities to score early in the game including the bottom of the first when the Gators received three walks to load the bases but came away empty.

Florida only managed one run and nine hits over the three games but first-year coach Tim Walton is optimistic about the future of Florida softball.

"There are a lot of steps that you have to take in a program with a new coach," he said. My system has always been a two-year system. Unfortunately with some of the key kids in the lineup being seniors it's probably gonna be a four-year system. That's what it's gonna take for us to really take-off. This is year number one down and we're gonna go for three more."


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