Florida's softball team entered the Women's College World Series on a roll, and kept the momentum going with a 6-2 victory over the Missouri Tigers Thursday night. Junior leadoff hitter Michelle Moultrie went 2 for 3, singling and scoring in the first inning to put the Gators out in front. Moultrie then extended the Gators lead to 3-0 with her third home run of the season to straight away center to lead off the third inning. Senior Megan Bush added a towering 2-run homer to left later in the third inning to put the game out of reach 5-0.
Missouri cut the lead to 5-2 in the sixth inning on a two-run double to left center field by Lisa Simmons, just out of reach of a diving Michelle Moultrie. The Tigers would come no closer though, as the Gators added an insurance run in the bottom of the sixth on an RBI single by sophomore Ensley Gammel.
The Gators went with experience on the mound, starting senior Stephanie Brombacher, who is playing in her fourth WCWS, despite playing through a torn biceps muscle as she has all season. Brombacher pitched well, stranding several baserunners before yielding to hard throwing freshman Hannah Rogers, who came on in the third inning with two on and one out. After walking the first batter she faced to load the bases, Rogers wiggled out of trouble with a strikeout and fly out to left to end the inning without damage. Rogers finished the game by giving up two runs on just two hits over 4.2 innings, earning the win to improve to 34-6 on the season.
Senior outfielder Kelsey Bruder also had a strong game going 1/1 with two walks to reach base three times. Florida's "Big Three" of Bruder, Bush and sophomore Brittany Schutte combined to go 3-6 with four RBI for the Gators.
Perhaps most impressive part of the game is how the Gators hitters handled Mizzou ace pitcher Chelsea Thomas, a National Player of the Year finalist who has also earned a tryout for the 2011 USA Softball Women's National Team. Thomas entered the game with a 0.83 ERA (tops in the country) and 364 strikeouts in 245 innings, an average of more than ten strikeouts per seven innings. The Gators lit up Thomas for eight hits while all six runs were earned to "balloon" her ERA to 0.97.
The Gators next face the No 1-ranked Arizona State Sun Devils and their ace pitcher, Dallas Escobedo, who sports a 30-3 record and carries a 1.32 ERA. Escobedo has logged 264 strikeouts in 206 innings, for an average of just under nine K's per 7 innings pitched. The Sun Devils are one of the few team that can match the Gators offensively. Arizona carries a team batting average of .339 while averaging 7.26 runs per game, while the Gators sport a .326 team average while scoring 7.44 runs per game.
The Gators will again occupy the nightcap spot on Friday with the first pitch scheduled for 8:30pm. The game will be televised live on ESPN.