Great Effort Comes Up Short For UF

It was a game full of drama and chances, the Florida Gators (63-5) battled for seven innings before coming up short in their final bid to win the 2009 national softball championship. A night after getting just two hits and very few chances at scoring runs, the Gators only had one inning without a base runner against Washington (51-12) who won the final game 3-2 on Tuesday night.

It was a great pitcher's duel between the top two pitchers in America. Florida's Stacey Nelson (41-5) who led her team to two seasons in a row where they never lost two games in a row. Washington's Danielle Lawrie (42-8) came into the game voted as the nation's No. 1 player in the country. Both lived up to their respective billings.

Nelson walked only one batter, struck out five, and allowed only two earned runs on the night. She went after the high powered Washington offense who had six hits in six innings on the Gator All-American.

Lawrie was not quite as dominant as Monday night but finished with one earned run, and eight strikeouts. She also went 2-for-3 at the plate and had one RBI helping her cause. Lawrie and the Huskies finished 3-0 against the Gators in 2009 for a team that lost five games all season.

The Gators let everyone know in the first inning it was going to be a different team on Tuesday than the one that showed up on Monday from the very first batter. Senior Aja Paculba tripled to lead off the inning and scored on a wild pitch from Lawrie. It was the first run and extra base hit by Florida in the two game series. Florida then equaled their hit total from the first game with a single by Francesca Enea after Kristina Hilberth made it to first on an error. Hilberth would come into score on a sacrifice fly by Megan Bush. A line drive out by Ali Gardiner turned into a double play with a force out at third.

The Gators stranded a runner and had two on with the final hit in the first inning and it would be the tale of the game for the eventual national runner-up.

Washington answered quickly in the first with two runs of their own, leading off with two singles in the inning before a strike out. Lawrie came up fourth and singled getting her RBI. Kimi Pohlman would eventually score on a wild pitch by Nelson before Nelson forced two ground outs to end the inning.

The Gators were able to get base runners on in the second, third, fourth, fifth, and seventh innings but were not able to string enough hits to bring home another run past the first inning of the contest. Credit goes to Lawrie who threw her rise ball and had Gator hitters chasing it most of the night.

Washington was able to score the last run of the ballgame in the third inning and it was eventually the game winner. An error by freshman center fielder Michelle Moultrie who dropped a hard lined shot, eventually allowed Pohlman to score her second run of the day. It could have been worse in the inning as Washington stranded three in the third and only scored once.

Gator coach Tim Walton seemed to make a great strategic move when he bumped catcher Kristina Hilberth up to second in the batting order. Hilberth came into the game batting the best of any Gator in the Women's College World Series and continued the streak by going 2-for-4 and getting on base three times in the game. However, the Gators would eventually strand 10 runners in the game which turned out to be the big statistic of this final outing for the Gators.

It has been a great two-year run for the Gators who made it to the national semi-finals in 2008 before bowing out with 70 wins. The Gators had a mixture of youth and experience in 2009 and key losses for the 2010 season will definitely be the battery of Nelson and Hilberth. Nelson leaves as the Gators winningest pitcher and most likely greatest player of all time. But, Soach Walton has built something great at Florida and the excellence looks to continue at the same level in 2010 and beyond.

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