Gator Pitcher Needs Help

The Gators may have had more runs scored on them Monday than they have in two years, but if Florida is going to win their first ever National Championship in softball they are going to have to get some help for All-American pitcher Stacey Nelson. The Gator bats have been all but dead since Florida showed up to the Women's College World Series. Life gets much easier for a pitcher with a lead.

The SEC showed it's worth this year in collegiate softball landing nine teams in the national tournament and three teams in the national semifinals. The Gators have learned to face tough competition both on the mound and at the plate all season long losing only one game to all of those SEC foes.

In league competition, Florida batted a very nice .318, scoring 6.4 runs a game. Since they started play in the Super Regional against Cal, the Gator bats have hit .188 and only scored 2.3 runs per game in six games.

Without Alli Gardiner's dramatic walk-off grand slam on Sunday, the Gators would be averaging 1.7 runs per game so far in the tournament.

In those games, the Gators have seen only one run cross home plate not due to a home run. In the first game of the Super Regional, Megan Bush singled to lead off the second inning. Two sacrifice bunts and a passed ball at the plate later, she scored. Every other run the Gators have had in the World Series and Super Regional came home because the ball was hit out of the park and that is only seven in six games.

Seven of the nine batters that have batted the most for the Gators in the WCWS had a batting average over .300 during the regular SEC season. Only one, Kristina Hilberth, is hitting that now and she is batting .300 for the series. These World Series pitchers are the best but a Gator team that has hit all year has five of the main batters in the series batting .200 or less three of those are batting .100 or less for the four games.

Nelson has to pitch better than she did on Monday when she gave up four earned runs, only three less than she gave up the entire SEC 27-game season. But, she will no doubt pitch better with a lead and her team has not done that for her in either of the last two games where she has struggled.

Nelson has made it known that she hasn't had her "stuff" in the last two games, and she has had to press on with a limited number of different effective pitches in both outings. With a lead, she can be more aggressive with batters and not fish around the edges trying to strike every batter out. As she fishes around the edges of the plate, she gets behind on batters and then has to throw pitches she normally wouldn't throw to batters so they don't get a free base.

It has been a wonderful season so far and no reason to throw in the towel at this point. Stacey Nelson is the best player to ever don a Florida softball uniform. She has a very good defensive team behind her that has shown the resilience to rise to the occasion during games and make great offensive plays. However, that same group of defenders needs to come to the plate themselves and give Nelson a boost so that she can go to the mound with a little juice with or without her best pitches available.


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