The No. 3 Florida softball team took care of business in NCAA Regional action over the weekend, going 3-1 against Bethune-Cookman and defending national champion UCLA to advance to an NCAA Super Regional for the fourth consecutive year. Florida defeated Bethune-Cookman 8-0 on Friday, beat UCLA 4-2 on Saturday, and then run-ruled UCLA 11-3 in six innings on Sunday after falling to the Bruins, 3-2, in its first chance to secure a Super Regional berth. That loss was only the Gators' second to a team from outside the SEC this season.
That's all well and good, and there are a host of fun numbers that go with it: the Gators reached the 50-win plateau for the fourth time in program history and will be hosting an NCAA Super Regional (against Oregon, and beginning this Friday) for the fourth straight year; Stephanie Brombacher allowed one earned run over nine innings pitched on the weekend and raised her record to 18-2 this season, while Hannah Rogers moved to 32-6 on the year with two wins and a loss; Florida exploded for nine runs in the first inning against UCLA in their elimination game on Sunday after losing via a walk-off.
But the thing that might linger from the weekend is the accusation UCLA's coach leveled at Florida after the game.
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 consistently against my best hitters is inexcusable.
Rogers hit three UCLA batters in the 11-3 win on Sunday, and she and Brombacher combined to hit six UCLA batters over three wins in Gainesville. But Rogers also gave up 18 hits in 14.2 innings against the Bruins; it's not like she was completely unhittable and then targeted UCLA players. And hitting batters to load the bases is rather stupid: Does Inouye-Perez really think that a "phenomenal pitcher" would load the bases to avoid pitching to UCLA's best players?
And insinuating that Rogers plunked hitters to avoid tough situations would suggest that Inouye-Perez wasn't paying close attention to UCLA's win over Florida, in which Rogers hit Amy Crawford with a pitch with no one on and one out in the sixth inning but then allowed her to rap the game-winning single in the seventh inning despite having first base open.
This feels more like sour grapes from a proud coach whose team failed to defend its national championship and lost an elimination game in dispiriting fashion thousands of miles from home. So does "I tip my cap to the fact that they could get on and they could steal off my bullpen catcher. Good for them," Inouye-Perez' response to Florida stealing six bases against UCLA's third-string catcher, Grace Murray, in its 11-3 win. Inouye-Perez is entitled to her opinion, of course.
But she's also got to deal with the fact that UCLA's season is done. Florida's will continue in Gainesville this weekend.