(Screencap via GatorVision.)
Florida needed two wins against USF on Sunday to continue its NCAA Tournament run to next weekend. The Gators couldn't get one.
USF hurler Sara Nevins scattered five hits and struck out 12 in a complete game shutout, and Florida finished its season with a 1-0 shutout loss to the Bulls that eliminated the No. 5 national seed from the 2012 NCAA Tournament.
The Gators had gotten to Sunday on the strength of an offensive explosion on Saturday, but their bats went cold against Nevins, one of the best pitchers in college softball this year. Only Michelle Moultrie, who went 2-for-4, had multiple hits, and only the top five spots in Florida's order reached base; Samantha Holle, Jess Damico, Briana Little, Katie Medina, and Ensley Gammel combined to go 0-for-11 from the No. 6 to No. 9 places in the lineup.
Hannah Rogers allowed USF's only run in a two-hit fourth inning, but surrendered just four hits on the day in her own complete game.
The loss of starters Sami Fagan, Kasey Fagan, and Cheyenne Coyle on the cusp of the NCAA Tournament will hang over Florida's long summer, its first without a trip to the Women's College World Series since 2007, not least because Holle, Damico, and Little were among the less-used players thrust into action by those players' abrupt departure and because all three failed to come through with the bases loaded in the bottom of the sixth.
Tim Walton has been Florida's coach for all of those WCWS appearances, the only ones in program history, and is rightly regarded as the finest softball coach the Gators have ever had. But he and his team — a young one that looked precocious before immaturity derailed it at the least opportune moment — now face one of the greatest questions of their period of prosperity: How can Florida recover from turmoil and refocus on heading toward the mountaintop?