The Gator softball team downed Missouri, 6-2, in the opening round of the 2011 Women’s College World Series in front of a record crowd of 8,152 at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium Thursday, earning its eighth all-time victory at the WCWS. Five Gator hitters connected for eight hits on the evening, including an impressive 2-for-3 from Michelle Moultrie, Megan Bush and Ensley Gammel. Cheyenne Coyle and Kelsey Bruder both rallied for hits as Bruder was a perfect 1-for-1 with two runs, one RBI and two walks. Florida added two home runs, bringing its season total to 112.

 

Just as the Florida bats were hot, Florida’s defense was sharp, turning a double play in the fifth and rallying behind the pitching efforts of Stephanie Brombacher and  Hannah Rogers  to beat Missouri for the second consecutive year in WCWS play. The Gators improved to 8-6 all-time in Women’s College World Series play and evened its first-round game record to 2-2. Florida will take on the Arizona State Sun Devils, who defeated Oklahoma earlier Thursday, in Friday’s nightcap, slated for an 8:30 p.m. first pitch.

 

Bush smashed her 21st homer of the season, a two-run round tripper in the third, to take sole possession of Florida's single-season record and contribute to the Gators’ three runs in the bottom of the third frame, while Moultrie took sole possession of Florida's single season hits record as her two Thursday brought her season total to 90. Moultrie also moved into a tie for first in single season stolen base attempts (32) and Bruder took possession of Florida's runs scored record (71). Bush moved two RBI closer to Florida’s career RBI record (221), now owning 217 in her Gator campaign.

Brombacher worked the first 2.1 for Florida, allowing just two hits and no runs, while walking two. Rogers came on in relief to earn the victory (34-6), tossing the final 4.2, giving up just two runs on two hits, while fanning three.

Florida wasted no time getting on the board early, taking a two-run lead in the bottom of the first frame as the higher seeded home team. Moultrie reached on a base hit that dropped over the Missouri second baseman’s head and moved around the bags on a sacrifice bunt by Aja Paculba, while Bruder sent Moultrie home on a single, plus two bases on a Mizzou fielding error in center to reach third. Bruder crossed home herself on a sophomore Brittany Schutte (Fountain Valley, Calif.) sacrifice bunt to give Florida the 2-0 advantage early before a strikeout ended the inning.

Brombacher stranded two for the Tigers in the second inning after allowing a base hit and walking one, getting out of the jam with two strikeouts and a foul out to retire the side. A blast by Moultrie, just her third of the season, led off the third for the Orange and Blue and gave the Gators a 3-0 lead. Bruder followed by drawing a one-out walk after Paculba grounded out, worked her way around the bags on a Schutte groundout and a Tiger passed ball and scored when Bush clocked a long ball to left field to take Florida ahead, 5-0. Cheyenne Coyle singled through the left side for another Gator base hit, but a fielder’s choice for Tiffany DeFelice  ended the inning.

After a scoreless fourth inning, Florida’s defense never faltered as Coyle, Paculba and Bush turned an impressive double play to wrap up the fifth inning after Rogers allowed a leadoff walk, and fanned the second batter to bring Florida to the plate, but the Gators went scoreless in the fifth. Missouri put two runs on the board in the top of the sixth frame on a double to deep left by Tiger left fielder Lisa Simmons, narrowing the margin, 5-2, heading to the bottom of the stanza.

The Gators tacked on an insurance run to go up, 6-2, thanks to a RBI single from Gammel when she dropped a base hit in center field to score Coyle, who drew a leadoff walk. Gammel rallied for two hits Thursday after having just nine hits and nine RBI on the season entering the WCWS.

Missouri ace Chelsea Thomas shouldered the loss for the Gators, working a complete-game effort and giving up all eight hits and six runs, while walking four and rallying for eight strikeouts.