Gators take softball series from Tide

Published: Sunday, April 24, 2011 at 8:15 p.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, April 24, 2011 at 8:15 p.m.

Senior Kelsey Bruder's second game-winning, walk-off hit against third-ranked Alabama in less than 24 hours enabled No. 8 Florida to walk away with a big SEC series win before a sun-drenched crowd of 1,011 at UF's Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium on Sunday.

Bruder, who delivered a game-winning, three-run home run in the bottom of the seventh inning to power UF to a 6-5 win Saturday, came through with a two-out, bases-loaded infield hit as the Gators pulled out a pulsating 3-2, win in nine innings to take the series after dropping Friday's opener, 5-0.

“I don't think this one was as dramatic,” Bruder said. “I was just happy to be able to come through for my team, whether it was a blooper, a home run or a little base hit.”

The clutch win pulled UF (40-8, 15-7) within two games of No. 4 Tennessee for the overall SEC lead as well as the SEC East's top spot. The loss, meanwhile, dropped the SEC West-leading Tide to 42-7, 16-6. A win would have moved Bama into a tie for first overall with the Vols.

With senior starter Stephanie Brombacher sick and unable to go, freshman right-hander Hannah Rogers got the call for UF and turned in a tremendous effort in the circle, outdueling Alabama senior ace Kelsi Dunne. Rogers (25-5), who has already set a UF record for wins by a freshman, went the distance (career-high nine innings) and allowed just three hits and two runs, both unearned, in an impressive performance that included 10 strikeouts.

“This was big; we needed it,” Rogers said. “I just tried to focus on hitting my spots and keeping my composure whenever they had runners on the bases.”

“She was really good,” UF coach Tim Walton said. “I'm very pleased. She changed speeds late and threw a couple of change-ups and was very unpredictable.”

Rogers allowed just one hit through the first seven innings, but the first two batters in the eighth reached on an infield hit and a bunt. Both eventually scored on a bases-loaded, two-out grounder that usually reliable second baseman Aja Paculba couldn't handle, giving the Tide a 2-0 lead.

But just as they did Saturday, the Gators refused to fold. Dunne retired two of the first four batters she faced in the bottom of the eighth, but hit the other two with pitches. That brought Bruder to the plate in the same scenario as Saturday when she faced Dunne with two runners on and delivered her game-winning homer.

Alabama coach Pat Murphy decided to replace Dunne with freshman Jackie Traina, but Bruder came through with a bloop RBI single to right to make it 2-1.

Murphy then elected to intentionally walk clean-up batter Megan Bush to load the bases with two outs. The move looked good when Traina got two quick strikes on Florida's Brittany Schutte, but Traina hit Schutte with her 0-2 pitch, forcing in the tying run, before ending the inning by getting Paculba to fly out to left.

Rogers retired the Tide in order in the top of the ninth, setting up UF's last at-bat heroics.

Tiffany DeFelice drew a leadoff walk to start the inning, and freshman Cheyenne Coyle delivered a sharp single off the glove of Bama second baseman Kaila Hunt. Pinch-hitter Ensley Gammel then laid down a perfect bunt to load the bases with nobody out.

Traina (16-4) was able to get back-to-back outs on a strikeout and force at the plate before Bruder sent a sharp bouncer up the middle that Traina was able to deflect toward Hunt. The second baseman made a diving stop of the ball, but could not right herself for the throw to first as Bruder crossed safely while Coyle slid safely home with the game-winning run.

“These were two very important Ws for our team,” Walton said. “We probably would have sucked the life out of everybody in the stands as hot as it was if we had left the bases loaded and not scored with nobody out. That would have been a pretty big momentum lift for them (Alabama).”

Next up, UF hits the road for a three-game SEC series against South Carolina beginning Friday.

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