Two-run blast leads UF past Lady Vols
Gators take first two games of series against Tennessee
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- No. 4 Florida rallied behind a senior Kelsey Bruder two-run bomb to rack up its 20th Southeastern Conference win this season, inching one-game closer to the SEC Eastern Division title with a 2-0 victory against the No. 3 Lady Vols Saturday, clinching the series on Senior Day in front of an Orange and Blue-clad crowd of 1,359. Bruder knocked a two RBI round-tripper over the center-field fence in the first inning to give Florida (46-8 / 20-7 SEC) an advantage it wouldn’t relinquish with her 17th bomb of 2011.
The Gator faithful honored seniors Stephanie Brombacher and Tiffany DeFelice in the first half of senior weekend prior to Saturday’s match-up, where the Orange and Blue captured their fourth consecutive 20-win Southeastern Conference season, its fifth in school history, the last four of which have come under head coach Tim Walton. Florida served Tennessee just its second shutout of the season and its only back-to-back losses in 2011 as the Gators blanked an opponent for the 24th time this year.
Brombacher earned the start on her senior day, retiring the first three Volunteer batters to set the tone for Saturday’s game. Brombacher additionally forced three up, three down in the third inning, finishing the day after 3.1 innings of work. The righty held Tennessee scoreless and gave up just three hits, while downing two by strikeout before freshman Hannah Rogers came on in relief to close out the final 3.2 innings. Likewise, Rogers gave up just three hits in a scoreless effort, fanning four in the process.
Sophomore Ivy Renfroe shouldered the loss for the Lady Vols (44-9 / 20-7 SEC), working a complete-game effort, but giving up five Gator hits and Bruder’s two-run homer. Renfroe walked four UF hitters and struck out three on the day.
Bruder got the Orange and Blue started right away, knocking a two-run long ball over the center-field fence to bring herself and fellow senior Aja Paculba across home after Paculba dropped a one-out single in left field in the first inning. A strikeout and pop up ended the opening frame, but not before UF grabbed the 2-0 advantage early.
The Gators had a prime opportunity to extend their lead in the second in a bases loaded situation after a DeFelice single that fell in the 5-6 hole that led off the inning. UF then drew two walks from Tennessee pitcher Renfroe as freshman Cheyenne Coyle with a freshman Kasey Fagan sacrifice bunt sandwiched in between to place both pinch runner Ashley Snedeker and Coyle in scoring position. An Ensley Gammel strikeout turned the Florida lineup over, allowing junior Michelle Moultrie to work Renfroe for a walk to load the bags, but Paculba lobbed a fly out into right to leave three on for the Orange and Blue.
After a scoreless third inning, the Vols tried to hustle in a run in the top of the fourth to narrow the margin, but Florida’s stellar defensive efforts halted the run at the plate. Tennessee’s Kelly Grieve knocked a one-out single and Lauren Gibson followed by reaching base on a fielder’s choice that eliminated Grieve at second and brought Jessica Spigner to the plate with two outs. Spigner smoked a double down the right-field line, sending Gibson hustling around the bags, but sophomore Brittany Schutte snagged the ball and gunned it to Paculba in the field, who connected with DeFelice for the tag at home, ending the inning.
Rogers went three up, three down in the fifth and gave up just one Tennessee hit through a scoreless Vols’ sixth frame to enable the Gators to carry their 2-0 lead into the seventh and final inning. Rogers caught Gibson swinging and forced a Spigner to fly out to start the frame. A Shelby Burchell double was UT’s only hope in the seventh before Rogers fanned Melissa Davin swinging for the final out of the game, giving Florida the 2-0 victory over Tennessee, its eleventh victory in the last 12 match-ups between the two SEC East foes.
Florida and Tennessee will take to the field for the series finale – with the SEC Eastern Division on the line – Sunday at 3 p.m. at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium. Sunday’s contest will air live on ESPNU with Beth Mowins, Michele Smith and Charlotte Morgan on the call. The second portion of this weekend’s senior festivities will take place beforehand as Bruder, Megan Bush and Paculba will be honored in a ceremony before first pitch. Gator fans unable to attend can also listen live on the radio at 105 “The Game”, with Adam Schick and Kristina Hilberth. Live stats will be available via Gametracker and a complete recap will be available on www.GatorZone.com/softball directly following.