Top-seeded Florida softball falls to FGCU

Florida shortstop Katie Medina can't handle a ground ball allowing Florida Gulf Coast to have runners at first and second during the NCAA Softball Regional on Friday, May 18, 2012 in Gainesville, Fla. Florida Gulf Coast defeated Florida 2-1.

Matt Stamey/Staff photographer
Published: Friday, May 18, 2012 at 7:52 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, May 18, 2012 at 7:52 p.m.

Florida suspended three of its key starters before its NCAA Softball Gainesville Regional opener against Florida Gulf Coast University.


Saturday's schedule

Games at Pressly Stadium
Winners' bracket
USF vs. Florida Gulf Coast, 1 p.m.
Losers' bracket
Florida vs. UCF, 3:30 p.m., 104.9 FM

The distraction carried over into the game. Without starting shortstop Cheyenne Coyle, starting third baseman Sami Fagan and starting left fielder Kasey Fagan, the top-seeded Gators suffered a lackluster 2-1 loss to FGCU at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium.

After the game, Florida coach Tim Walton said the three players were “no longer with us.” But Walton later softened that assessment by saying that they were suspended indefinitely until the end of the season.

“Obviously as you go through the end of the season, you have to address everything, where you are at,” Walton said. “As of right now, they are off the team for the rest of the season.”

Walton refused to elaborate on why the three players were suspended.

“I'm handling that internally,” he said.

On Friday night, the three suspended players were seen at a spring football game in Dunnellon, where Kevin Fagan, the father of Sami and Kasey, is an assistant coach.

Kevin Fagan said the three “have been released from the team,” and are receiving offers from other schools.

The loss of the three starters further hampered an offense that had been inconsistent throughout the season. Sami Fagan was UF's leading hitter in the regular season with a .378 average. Kasey Fagan was batting .261, while Coyle was at .232 with 10 home runs and 34 RBIs. Coyle also is arguably UF's top defensive player with her ability to cover ground at shortstop.

“I'd be crazy to say it didn't affect the team,” Walton said. “A team is a team and you work hard from the beginning of the season. ... Losing any teammate is a distraction.”

Without the three starters, the Gators were hoping to get a boost from junior slugger Brittany Schutte, who returned to the lineup after missing two-and-a-half months with a broken jaw. But the Gators' offense managed just a run on five hits and left six runners on base.

FGCU (38-22) jumped ahead 1-0 in the second inning when third baseman Kirsten Bembnowski belted a solo home run of UF starter Hannah Rogers. Florida tied the score at 1 in the bottom of the third on a Lauren Haeger RBI single.

The score remained tied until the top of the sixth, when FGCU first baseman Emily Lanier belted a Rogers inside fastball deep over the wall in left field. The solo homer put FGCU ahead to stay 2-1.

“They were pitches that they were able to hit well,” Rogers said of the solo home runs. “They came out wanting to beat and us. We came out ready to win too, with the defense that we had. We played our best, but came up short.”

FGCU freshman starter Shelby Morgan took care of the rest. The former Santa Fe High standout and High Springs native pitched a complete game, preserving FGCU's first Division I postseason win.

“It speaks volumes for how well our players prepared for this game and how they performed under pressure,” FGCU coach David Deiros said. “Florida put us under continuous pressure. They did not fold at anytime. They didn't feel sorry for themselves. We had to make plays and stop innings.”

Morgan, the Atlantic Sun's pitcher of the year, threw just 86 pitches, walking two and striking out four.

“Shelby did a fantastic job, but it's really what we've been watching from her all year,” Deiros said.

In the seventh inning with Florida trailing 2-1, left fielder Briana Little, pinch-hitter Ensley Gammel and center fielder Michelle Moultrie all swung at the first pitch, recording three straight groundouts to end the game.

“Not the greatest (approach), but I don't fault their effort,” Walton said. “They are trying to get on base, maybe they were three strikes, I'm not sure. Typically in that situation, I'd have Michelle or have that person take that one and make it four pitches. I think as good as Michelle is, she's capable of changing the ballgame with one swing, so I let her swing away and she rolled on that ground ball.”

Florida (46-12) dropped into the losers' bracket, where it will face UCF at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday. One more loss would end Florida's season and its streak of four straight College World Series appearances. The Gators haven't been knocked out of a regional they hosted since 2006.

Walton said he hasn't decided on whether he will start Rogers or Haeger against the Knights.

“I'm not sure who can play what position so that will hinge a little bit what we do pitching-wise,” Walton said. “But overall, we're going to go with the best pitcher, the best matchup. Hannah pitched last time we played UCF so if we go with Lauren or with Hannah, we'll make that decision.”

USF 1, UCF 0: Sarah Nevins and Lindsey Richardson combined to pitch a four-hit shutout, lifting USF to the victory.

USF scored the lone run of the game on an RBI single from Richardson in the third inning.

Former Lafayette standout Natalie Land went 2-for-4 for UCF, but with runners on first and second in the seventh, grounded into a double play to end the game.

USF will face FGCU in the winners' bracket Saturday at 1 p.m.

Contact Kevin Brockway at 352-374-5054 or Staff writer Andy Marks also contributed to this report.

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