Gators One Win Away

It wasn't Stacey Nelson's best day in the circle for the Gator softball team, but it was her biggest win of the year. The junior All American notched her 44th win of the season in pitching the Gators to a win over California, 4-2, in the first game of the Super Regional in Gainesville.

The win moved Florida within one win of a trip to the College Softball World Series.

Nelson scattered nine hits and registered ten strikeouts in thwarting repeated rallies from California. Facing a team from her home state, Nelson got inning ending strikeouts in the fifth and sixth innings with the potential lead run at the plate and faced the potential tying run twice in the seventh as well.

The Gators had chances to score early in this one but couldn't capitalize. With two out and no one on in the first Ali Gardiner laced a single to left and Francesca Enea ripped a double to right centerfield. But Gardiner is not one of Florida's top runners and could not score. The two were left stranded when Tiffany DeFelice flied out to right.

In the second Mary Ratliff walked and one out later was sacrificed to second. Cal tried to pick Ratliff off on the sacrifice play but the ball got loose and Florida's senior made it to third. However the Gators again left a runner in scoring position when Corey Brooks popped up to the catcher.

Florida put the first run of the Super Regional on the board in the third. Aja Paculba singled with one out and stole second. After Ali Gardiner struck out Enea ripped a single to centerfield to put the Gators on the board.

Cal threatened to answer in the fourth with a leadoff walk followed by a single. Nelson settled down to register two ground outs and ended the threat by striking out Senoe Kekahuna with runners on second and third to preserve the shutout.

That failure would haunt the Bears as the Gators took a commanding lead in the bottom of the inning. Florida loaded the bases with one out on two walks and an error, but a force at the plate gave Cal pitcher Marissa Drewrey a chance to get out of the inning. Instead Paculba walked, Gardiner singled and Enea was hit by a pitch, each driving in a run giving the Gators a 4-0 lead.

California kept the pressure on Nelson. In the fifth when three straight singles plated a run and the Bears had runners on second and third with one out. A line out was followed by a walk, but Nelson stranded three runners when she struck out Bernice Masaniai. The next inning it was more of the same as the Bears loaded the bases and made it 4-2 on Valerie Alioto's second RBI single in as many innings. Nelson was able to bear down and strike out Ericka Racklin, leaving three more Cal runners on base.

Florida improves to 66-3 with the victory while Cal falls to 43-26. The Gators will have two chances to win a game Saturday and advance to the World Series for the first time in the program's 12-year history.

Questions or comments? Contact FightinGators.com's Larry Vettel


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