UF softball ends season with loss
Published: Sunday, May 20, 2012 at 4:25 p.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, May 20, 2012 at 4:25 p.m.
A Florida softball season that began with the goal of a fifth straight College World Series appearance came to an abrupt end Sunday.
Unable to solve USF sophomore pitcher Sara Nevins, the host Gators were knocked out of the NCAA Softball Gainesville Regional with a 1-0 loss to the Bulls at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium.
Whether starting players Kasey Fagan, Sami Fagan and Cheyenne Coyle could have made a difference is a matter of debate. All three were kicked off the team on Friday before the Gainesville Regional. According to Sami and Kasey Fagan's father, Kevin Fagan, the dismissals came as the result of an altercation that divided the team. Florida coach Tim Walton refused to elaborate on the reason for the suspensions on Friday night.
The more unified Gators won a pair of games on Saturday to reach Sunday's final round. But UF's depleted lineup was no match for the 6-foot lefty Nevins, who struck out 12 in a five-hit shutout.
“I thought that Coach Walton did his best coaching this year under the situations with a brand new team and the distractions that could have gone on this weekend,” USF coach Ken Eriksen said.
Asked about the decisions impacting the performance of his team on the field, Walton said: “At the end of it, it's all about the team and it's all about the program and it's all about the University of Florida. It's about the Gators. I'm not going to say too many words, but that's what it's all about … I think that's the most important part about being the leader of this team.”
But Florida senior outfielder Michelle Moultrie, who rooms with both Fagan sisters, admitted it was a distraction not having the three starters on the team this weekend.
“Not saying it took away from how I played, but (they were) a big part of our team,” Moultrie said. “It was hard for me. I can't really speak to anyone else. I'm really close to those girls and it's a hard thing whenever you lose anyone.”
Eriksen said he faced a similar situation in 2008 when he was forced to suspend 13 players the opening weekend for violating a team curfew.
“There's ethics and morals and there's a fine line between Saturday night and Sunday morning,” Eriksen said. “If you stick to your guns on what Sunday morning is about you know what's right and wrong. Abraham Lincoln had it right, I abide by what's right and wrong, and you can't blame the guy. He's a pretty smart guy from what I understand.”
On this Sunday, it was all about Nevins. USF took a 1-0 lead on an RBI infield single from Kenshyra Jackson in the third inning that Nevins made stand throughout the game.
Nevins said she kept Florida off-balance with her change-up.
“That worked a lot and then just jamming them inside,” Nevins said. “My teammates were in good position to get the out.
Florida had its best chance to score in the bottom of the sixth, loading the bases with no one out. Eriksen approached the mound.
“She told me, ‘Coach, I've got this,' ” Eriksen said.
Nevins then struck out Samantha Holle, Jess Damico and got Brianna Little to ground out to shortstop to get out of the jam.
It was a microcosm of UF's season. The Gators hit just .270 with the bases loaded and .286 with runners in scoring position.
“That was the exclamation point to a season of really young players putting a lot of pressure on themselves with the bases loaded,” Walton said.
Florida finished the season at 48-13, with its string of four straight CWS appearances snapped. It also was the final UF game for Moultrie, who appeared in the CWS her previous three seasons.
“It's a sad way to go out but it's been a great four years here so I just have to look back at all the things that have gone right and been good here,” Moultrie said. “I'm proud of my career and just being a part of this program.”
Walton admitted it will feel strange watching the CWS in early June and not being a part of it.
“Four years is a consecutive streak I'm very proud of,” Walton said. “And I'm proud of not only how many games we won, but how good those people and how good those players were to be a part of that, too.”