Florida's softball team defeated the California Golden Bears on elimination Saturday, 5-2, and will face Alabama on Sunday, needing to beat the Crimson Tide twice to move on to the Championship Series at the Women's College World Series.
Early on, the Gators looked to be in trouble again, falling behind Cal 2-0 in the top of the first inning and having to face yet another All American pitcher in Cal sophomore Jolene Henderson. However, after the initial frame, the Gators' defense buckled down to shut out Cal the rest of the way.
It took a few innings for Florida's bats to awaken, but they broke through in the bottom of the third with a little two-out magic ignited by Florida's "Big Three." Kelsey Bruder and Brittany Schutte hit back-to-back singles, before Megan Bush walked to load the bases. Freshman Cheyenne Coyle followed with an infield single to score Bruder, and a Cal throwing error on the play also plated Schutte. Aja Paculba kept the rally going with an RBI single to center before a strikeout ended the inning with the Gators up 3-2.The Gators added a run in the fourth inning after Michelle Moultrie singled and swiped second, her 30th stolen base of the season, and catcher Tiffany DeFelice singled her in. The final Gators run came in the fifth, when Paculba doubled, stole third, and was singled in by Moultrie to stretch the Florida lead to 5-2.
Senior pitcher Stephanie Brombacher came on in the fifth to relieve starter Hannah Rogers, earning her first save of the season. Brombacher walked the first batter she faced, but after a brilliant double play by Paculba, shut down the Bears the rest of the way. After the shaky first inning, Rogers settled down to earn her 35th win, yielding one earned run on six hits, a walk and a strikeout.
Meanwhile, the Gators offense piled up ten hits against Henderson and all five runs were earned. Moultrie continued her stellar series, going 2 for 4, while Bruder, Schutte and Paculba also added two hits apiece.
Next up for the Gators is familiar conference foe Alabama Crimson Tide. Florida took two out of three from the Tide in Gainesville during the regular season, but must defeat Alabama twice in the semifinal round Sunday in order to advance to the Championship Series on Monday. The teams will meet at 1 p.m. on ESPN, and if necessary, the second game will start at 7 p.m. on ESPN2.
Florida is looking forward to the matchup. From the Gainesville Sun:
"Bama is always an amazing game," outfielder Kelsey Bruder said. "It's been back and forth through the years. ... It always ends in a dramatic fashion, so I'm definitely looking forward to it and seeing what both teams bring."
Said (Coach Tim) Walton, "It's going to be a challenge, but the good thing is I've got these hitters on my side, I've got this team on our side, and we're going to get up to play Alabama — and the same thing for them, they're going to get up to play us."