Gators Lose, 3-2, in Extra Innings

Despite a valiant effort and an early 2-0 lead, the Florida Softball team (67-4) lost its first game in the Women's College World Series, 3-2, to Louisiana-Lafayette in eight innings on Thursday afternoon at the ASA Hall of Fame Stadium in Oklahoma City, Okla.

"I was pleased with the way we came into the game, the way we were prepared to come into the game," head coach Tim Walton said. "At this level when you get to this point, especially with dominant pitching all the way through, we have to do a little better job making adjustments. The second and third time around, we did not do that. Overall, I don't think we swung the bat well enough to win the game today, but give them a lot of credit. I thought they did an outstanding job of pitching and keeping us off-balance."

The Gators were out hit by the Cajuns nine to six and left nine runners on base in the game. Louisiana-Lafayette freshman ace Ashley Brignac struck out 15 Florida batters to earn her 31st win of the season. Junior Stacey Nelson struck out six and walked only one in 7.2 innings of work as she took the loss to move to 45-4 on the year.

With the game tied at 2-2 in the top of the eighth, one swing from ULL's All-American Holly Tankersley took a Nelson pitch into the centerfield bleachers for the 3-2 lead. Melissa Verde added another hit, but she was put out on a fielder's choice play in the next at bat for the second out of the inning. With a runner on and two outs, freshman Stephanie Brombacher came in to relieve Nelson in the circle. Gabriele Bridges grabbed a hit from Brombacher, but she took down Brooke Brodhead on strikes to end the inning.

The bottom of the eighth brought on an epic battle at the plate between Brignac and sophomore Tiffany DeFelice. DeFelice had a 3-0 count before taking a pitch for a strike. She then fouled off 18 straight pitches before flying out to center. Two pop ups to short ended the game and sent Florida to the losers bracket.

"(Brignac) was hitting her spots," DeFelice said of her 23-pitch at bat. "She was getting the ball where it needed to be and I was just going to keep fouling them off until I got something I liked and hoping she was going to miss. It was a very long at bat. It was tough and I was hoping for a better result, but it's the way the ball bounces sometimes."

The Gators got on the board first in the bottom of the second. DeFelice got her first hit of NCAA Tournament play as she dropped a double in left center to lead off the inning. Two outs later, sophomore Corrie Brooks knocked a double down the left field line to bring DeFelice all the way from first for the 1-0 Gator lead.

Florida took a two run lead in the bottom of the fourth. Junior Kristina Hilberth led off the inning beating out an infield base hit. She was out on a fielder's choice play that found Brooks safe at first. Brooks moved to second on a ground out by junior Kim Waleszonia. A double down the left field line by freshman Aja Paculba scored Brooks at gave the Gators the 2-0 lift.

The Ragin' Cajuns tied the game at 2-2 in the top of the fifth. With one out, Karli Hubbard beat out an infield single. Following a Nelson strikeout to Katie Smith, a Vallie Gaspard bloop single put two runners on base. Vanessa Soto drilled a double to the centerfield wall to bring home both runners and tie the game.

Florida got a runner on in the bottom of the fifth as senior Mary Ratliff drew a walk from Brignac with one out. She would get no further though as Brignac set the next two Gator batters down on strikes.

Louisiana threatened again in the top of the sixth, getting a runner all the way to third before ending the inning, but the Gator defense held tough. Verde led off with a double down the left field line. Kelly Cormier came in to pinch run for her. Following a Nelson strikeout, Cormier moved to third on a Bridges fly out to center. Waleszonia hurled the ball to Brooks at third to try to get the runner advancing, but she just slid under the tag from Brooks. It would not matter though as Brooke Brodhead flew out to Hilberth at the plate for the final out.

Florida last shot for a run came in the bottom of the sixth as junior Ali Gardiner drew a one-out walk. The next two batters flew out to end the inning.

Florida got the first runner on base as Paculba drew a walk from Brignac with one out in the first. Gardiner followed with a base hit through the left side. The next two Gator batters struck out to end the inning.

Louisiana-Lafayette got its first runner on as Verde drew a leadoff walk from Nelson in the top of the second. She was retired in the next at bat though as Lana Bowers lined into a double play to Paculba at second. The next batter flew out to Francesca Enea in left to end the Cajun half inning.

Lafayette got their first hit of the game in the top of the fourth as Smith reached on a bunt single to third with two outs. A ground out to Brooks ended the inning.

Gardiner drew a one-out walk in the bottom of the third. Freshman Ami Austin came in to pinch run for her. Enea followed with a base hit to left to put runners on first and second. A two-out walk to DeFelice loaded the bases for Megan Bush, but a Brignac strikeout would leave the three Gator runners stranded.

The top of the fourth found some trouble for the Gators, but as had been the case all year, they were able to work their way out of it. Soto dribbled a base hit through the right side to lead off the inning. A Gator throwing error on a fielder's choice for Tankersley's at bat, found runners safe at first and second. The Gators got the first out of the inning as Verde grounded out to Paculba for the first out of the innings, but both runners moved into scoring position. Nelson took care of the second out herself, as she checked the runner at third, then threw to Gardiner at first for the second out of the inning. Bridges flew out to Enea at left for the final out of the inning to end the threat and allow the Gators to keep their 1-0 lead.

"(We just have to) come out with a positive attitude the next day," Nelson said. "You know, this is a double-elimination tournament so we cannot have the attitude that you lose one, you lose another. Even though we have not lost a lot of games, there have been games where we have been behind and we have been able to come back. I think our team has a lot of character in that respect."

Though disappointed by the loss, the Gators have a day to practice and regroup before playing again. Florida will face off against Virginia Tech, who fell 1-0 to Texas A&M in the second game of the day, at 12 p.m. ET on Saturday.

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