May 23, 2010

Courtesy of Florida Athletics

The fourth-seeded University of Florida softball team used a 13-3, five-inning victory over FIU on Sunday afternoon at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium in front of 1,503 fans to advance to its fourth straight NCAA Super Regional appearance.

Freshman Brittany Schutte (Fountain Valley, Calif.) belted her first career grand slam while going 1-for-2 with two runs, two walks and five RBIs. Junior Megan Bush (Anaheim Hills, Calif.) led offensively for the Gators (46-8) with a 3-for-4 performance with two runs and three RBIs.

Junior Stephanie Brombacher (Pembroke Pines, Fla.) tallied the win, going all five innings, allowing four hits, three runs, one walk and struck out seven. The righty (32-6) earned all three Regional victories for UF, pitching 19 innings, allowing only three walks, eight hits and striking out 26.

With the three victories, Florida improved its all-time record to 16-15 in NCAA Regional action and 29-21 overall in the NCAA Tournament. The Gators finished the season 10-1 against in-state rivals, defeating all three Florida teams in the Gainesville Regional. Sunday's win also marked the first time in the 2010 season FIU (38-21) was run-ruled.

"I'm really excited about this ball club," Head coach Tim Walton said. "I don't get excited very often because I have a very mellow approach, but [Schutte's] grand slam really fired me up. I'm excited about where we are able to go on, not because everyone in the media thinks that we're bound for the College World Series and looking to win a championship. We're just looking to have fun and take care of business the next game."

The Gators started off strong, scoring five runs in the top of the first, highlighted by Schutte's grand slam. Sophomore Michelle Moultrie (Jacksonville, Fla.) led off with a four-pitch walk and junior Aja Paculba (Wildomar, Calif.) followed when she was hit by a pitch. Classmate Kelsey Bruder (Corona, Calif.) reached on an error by second baseman Brie Rojas and Moultrie scored the first run when senior Francesca Enea (Woodland Hills, Calif.) was hit. Schutte then smashed one off the scoreboard, her 15th of the season, the second most on the team. The bases-loaded bomb was the 10th of the season for Florida as the designated player was the seventh different Gator to hit one. The 2009 team set the school record for grand slams with 12.

FIU got two runs back in the bottom of the inning. After Brombacher retired the lead-off batter with a strikeout, Beth Peller tallied an infield single and moved to second when Ashley McClain knocked a base hit through the right side. Rojas doubled down the left-field line, scoring Peller and Jenny Welch recorded a sac fly to right, cutting the UF lead to three.

Senior Corrie Brooks (Christmas, Fla.) got back the two runs in third with a two-out bomb, her ninth. Bush tallied a one-out double down the left-field line and Brooks launched one over the trees in left for the Gators' 100th home run of the season.

Brombacher settled in in the second inning and retired the side in order. She kept it up in the third, sitting the Panthers down, 1-2-3.

Florida broke open the game in the fourth with five runs on three hits as new pitcher Jennifer Gniadek came in to relieve Kasey Barrett (19-13). She started by walking Paculba and Bruder moved her teammate to third on a single through the right side. Bruder advanced to second on the throw and Enea was hit by a pitch for the second time to load the bases. Schutte drew a four-pitch walk to score the Gators' eighth run. Bush doubled up the middle, scoring Bruder and Enea, and then Schutte scored on Gniadek's wild pitch while junior Tiffany DeFelice (Coral Springs, Fla.) was at the plate. The catcher smacked one between the third baseman and shortstop, plating Bush and giving Florida a 12-2 lead.

The Panthers earned one run back in the fourth as Rojas led off with a solo shot just inside the left-field foul pole. Brombacher struck out the next batter swinging and after allowing her first walk of the game, got the final two outs on a fly ball and a strikeout looking.

Florida scored its final run in the fifth when Bruder tallied a one-out single through the right side and moved to second on a wild pitch. Schutte walked for the second time and Bush hit a bloop single to center, driving in Bruder. Brombacher ended the game with a 1-2-3 bottom of the fifth, which included two strikeouts.

The Gators will host the winner of No. 13 Arizona State-Long Island in a Super Regional May 28-30. Dates and times will be released on when they become available. All Super Regionals will be aired live on the ESPN network and Florida games will be broadcast on WYGC-FM 105 The Game (104.9).