Aggies look to neutralize Florida ace

Florida's Stacey Nelson didn't allow a run in 18.1 innings of work last weekend. The Aggies scored 29 runs in their final three games of the College Station regional. Aggie Websider's Dallas Shipp takes a look at what promises to be a thrilling super regional in College Station this weekend.

The Texas A&M softball team stumbled down the stretch, losing three of their last four games prior to the NCAA regional last weekend. After an 8-1 loss to Houston, it appeared that the No. 4 seeded Aggies' may continue that trend in the postseason. Instead, the loss inspired the team and sparked a three-game winning streak in which they outscored their opponents 29-2 and run-ruled two of them.

This weekend, they'll look to continue that dominance against a No. 13 seeded Florida team that is extremely tough. And they play in the SEC, which always seems to be tough in the postseason—regardless of the sport.

The Gators finished second in the SEC East this year (fourth best record in the SEC overall) with a 17-11 conference record (49-20 for the year). They advanced to the SEC tournament championship game against No. 5 LSU, where they lost 1-0 in nine innings.

Florida ace Stacey Nelson started all three games last weekend, allowing zero runs in 18.1 innings of work, including a nine inning effort in a 3-0 win over Texas on Sunday, Stetson, Georgia Tech and Texas combined for just six hits in that same span.

The Aggies will have to put runners on base and pressure Nelson, who owns a 0.88 ERA for the season and a 33-13 record in 55 appearances. She's allowed just three home runs this year and opponents are batting just .180 against her, so don't expect many opportunities for the "big inning" either.

The Aggies will hope to force the Gators to use the bullpen in at least one of the games, where the only pitcher with any meaningful work this year sports a 2.21 ERA.

Offensively, Florida is led by Kim Waleszonia (.365 avg, 28 RBI, 21-24 SB) and Melissa Zick (.312 avg, 12 HR, 40 RBI). Waleszonia set the single season school record for hits with 77 in the regular season, increasing that total to 84 in the postseason.

The Aggies need solid performances in the circle from juniors Amanda Scarborough and Megan Gibson to counter Nelson.

Scarborough (24-7, 204 Ks, 125 hits, 196.0 innings pitched) led the Big 12 this year with an ERA of 1.04, and opponents are hitting a paltry .174 against her.

Gibson (17-4, 152 Ks, 123 hits, 147.1 innings pitched) isn't far behind Scarborough with a 1.52 ERA and an opponents batting average of .221.

Scarborough will pitch at least two games and possibly make an appearance in all three games if necessary. The pressure will be on this duo to keep Florida contained because Nelson doesn't need much run support to feel confident on the rubber.

Offensively, the bulk of the pressure will be on Gibson (.391 avg, 11 HR, 39 RBI) and Scarborough (.346 avg, 7 HR, 46 RBI) as well, but the most important part of the Aggies' offensive puzzle may be senior outfielder Sharonda McDonald (.391 avg, 59 runs, 37 SB). Gibson and McDonald are tied for the team lead in hitting, but McDonald may be the ultimate difference maker for the Aggies by getting on base and using her speed to put pressure on the opposing pitcher.

As Scarborough said after last weekend's regional, "When Sharonda gets on base, we're going to score." Her speed (37-of-40 stolen bases) forces opposing pitchers to make good pitches with Gibson and Scarborough at the plate, which is one reason they are two of the top three RBI leaders.

It will be tough for A&M to win two straight games against such a dominant pitcher, but if anyone can do it, the Aggies can. Offensively, A&M is one of the hottest teams in the country heading into the super regional weekend that should play host to an extremely tense, low-scoring affair.

12th Man Magazine On Campus' True Brown contributed to this report

Game one: Friday, 6:30pm - ESPN
Game two: Saturday, 1:00pm - ESPN
Game three: Saturday, 3:30pm - ESPN (if necessary)

The last time A&M lost two games in a row at home was the Super Regional against Alabama in 2005
A&M is 25-3 at home this year, Florida is 11-7 on the road
Florida is 8-15 versus ranked opponents this year
A&M is 7-6 versus ranked opponents this year
This is the first meeting between A&M and Florida in softball
The Gators allowed zero runs in the Gainesville Regional and just 1 run in their last seven games combined

Team Hitting
A&M - .289
UF - .259

Team ERA
A&M – 1.27
UF – 1.37

Runs Scored per game
A&M – 5.3
UF – 4.1

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