UF softball moves on in NCAAs with big win over UCLA

Florida's Megan Bush, left, and Tiffany DeFelice laugh after the Gators beat UCLA in game two in the Regionals of the 2011 NCAA Softball Tournament at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium, in Gainesville, on May 22, 2011.

Brad McClenny/Staff photographer
Published: Sunday, May 22, 2011 at 5:36 p.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, May 22, 2011 at 5:36 p.m.

It was a Sunday afternoon of softball that featured a little bit of everything — home runs, clutch hits, stolen bases and even umpire warnings to both dugouts.

By the time it was over, Florida won its host NCAA Softball Gainesville Regional with an 11-3 win over defending national champion UCLA at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium.

The Gators (50-10) advanced to the super regionals for the fourth straight year and will host Oregon next weekend. The first game is on Friday at 2 p.m.

Close to five hours of softball in 90-degree heat and high humidity created some testy postgame feelings. After Florida lost 3-2 in its opening game Sunday in the double-elimination tournament, the Gators rallied for nine runs in the top of the first to put away the deciding second game early.

Afterwards, UCLA coach Kelly Inouye-Perez said she felt Florida pitcher Hannah Rogers was throwing at her players on purpose. Rogers hit UCLA first baseman Andrea Harrison and Kellie Fox in the top of the first of the second game before working out of a bases loaded jam.

"Because of the history of this program, they continue to hit our best players in those situations," Inouye-Perez said. "It's just a fact. Call it what you want. Call it lucky. Call it a fluke. It just continues to happen.

"And we're down right now. We're definitely beat up. We're beat up as a team. For it to continue to happen, and consistently happen, to me there's more control. I think Hannah Rogers is a great pitcher. I think she's a phenomenal pitcher. And for her to lose control consistentlyy against my best hitters is inexcusable.

"If she was a wild all over the place pitcher I might say something different. But she's not."

Harrison said she didn't feel like she was hit intentionally. Harrison delivered a tying RBI single during a two-run seventh inning rally that allowed UCLA to force the second game.

"I've been hit all year," Harrison said. "I take it a sign of respect. You don't want to throw the ball over the plate to me you either hit me or you walk me."

Rogers, who hit three batters but had no walks to win the second game, was not made available for comment after the game. But Florida coach Tim Walton defended her freshman pitcher after the game, saying she had no intent to throw at any UCLA batter.

"There was no intentional throwing, none at all," Walton said. "I won't lie to you and say what would you rather do, would you rather hang your curveball over the plate and let a kid hit a three-run homer or would you rather miss a spot? That's part of the game of baseball and softball. When a pitcher throws pitches, you can't have them timid. That last part is what any pitching coach would teach."

Rogers later hit UCLA leadoff batter GiOnna DiSalvatore in the top of the third inning. After UCLA reliever Destiny Rodino plunked Florida left fielder Kelsey Bruder in the bottom of the third, home plate umpire Matt Dunbar issues warnings to both dugouts.

By then, Florida was comfortably ahead 9-0 in the third inning. After getting one hit in a 3-2 loss against UCLA in the opening game, Florida pounded out nine runs on seven hits in the first inning of the second game against three different UCLA pitchers. Senior first baseman Megan Bush got the Gators going early with a two-RBI single to put the Gators ahead 2-0. Senior catcher Tiffany DeFelice added her sixth homer of the season later in the inning to extend the lead to 6-0.

Florida stole six bases in the first inning and nine total against UCLA third-string catcher Grace Murray. Starting UCLA catcher Brooke Finley was out of the tournament with a concussion and second string catcher Alyssa Tiumalo suffered a leg injury against Florida on Saturday that forced her out of the tournament.

"I was doing my best back there," Murray said. "If they were going to steal, that's fine. I was working my hardest to get them out."

Said Inoyue-Perez: "It was a free pass. We knew that coming in. We had to throw a no-hitter against them to make sure they weren't going to advance runners. They are a quality team. I tip my cap to the fact that they could get on and they could steal off my bullpen catcher. Good for them."

Walton offered no apologies for exploiting UCLA's weakness.

"That was 100 percent the gameplan," Walton said. "I'm not feeling sorry for anybody at this point in time. That was a weakness. Every time we got on we were stealing. We weren't trying to rub it in anyone's faces, we weren't trying to run it down their throat. The thing is, we're trying to win the ballgame. We're trying to move on to the next level and move on to the next game."

Walton said he had no qualms about bringing Rogers back to start the second game after she gave up two runs on five hits in the seventh inning to lose the first game. UCLA right fielder Amy Crawford won the first game for the Bruins with a walk-off RBI single in the bottom of the seventh.

During the 30-minute break between games, senior second baseman Aja Paculba told the team she didn't want this to be her last college game.

"Hopefully that motivated everybody," Paculba. "I knew I was going to come out and do everything I could to not make it my last game."

A between-game meal of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches seemed to help. Leadoff batter Michelle Moultrie got things going in the bottom of the first for Florida with a bunt single and stole second. Moultrie later added an RBI single in the bottom of the first, and Paculba had a two-RBI single to put the Gators ahead 9-0.

Walton said he was pleased with his team's resiliency against a tradition-rich program.

"I'm very proud," Walton said. "I know they are going to talk about the injuries and the things like that, but I'm proud of the way we played. We could have just called it in and said, we're done, great season, 49-11. But we really showed a lot of character."

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