May 30, 2010

By Paul D. Bowker
Special to

GAINESVILLE, Fla. - A school-record 100 home runs carried the University of Florida to a Southeastern Conference East championship this season.

Arizona State received a painful taste of that offensive power in their NCAA Division I Super Regional opener Saturday night at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium. Two home runs and a triple in the fifth inning ended Florida's 8-0 win over ASU in a game shortened due to the 8-run mercy rule.

The final hit of the game, a two-run, towering home run by Corrie Brooks, cleared the scoreboard in left-center field to finish off a six-run inning in walk-off style and bring Florida (47-8) within one win of its third consecutive NCAA Women's College World Series appearance.

"The magnitude of that home run was what made it probably one of the biggest ones. But nothing that these kids do surprises me," Florida coach Tim Walton said.

The start of Saturday's game was delayed by about 80 minutes, due to rain. Game 2 of the best-of-three series is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. EDT Sunday. If ASU wins, Game 3 would be played at approximately 6 p.m.

The loss was the first in nine Super Regional games for ASU coach Clint Myers. The Sun Devils (44-16) need two wins against Florida on Sunday to advance to their fifth consecutive Softball World Series.

"We still have some fight left in us," Myers said.

Michelle Moultrie, Brittany Schutte and Brooks each had two hits for the Gators. Schutte also scored two runs, and hit a two-run homer in the fifth.

"We take a lot of pride in our offense," Walton said. "We just talked about getting the pitch elevated, not going out and chasing (low pitches)."

Until the Gators' offensive explosion in the fifth inning, Florida rode the pitching of junior Stephanie Brombacher (33-6) and a couple of well-placed hits to a 2-0 lead. Brombacher, who has three shutouts in four postseason games, struck out five ASU batters, including four in a row at one point.

"I'm just glad I can help out with my pitches," Brombacher said.

Brombacher gave up four hits, including doubles to Katelyn Boyd and Mandy Urfer, but neither player advanced past third base. The Sun Devils stranded four baserunners, but never had one on third.

The Gators struck quickly for a run in the first inning, when lead-off hitter Moultrie singled and scored on a double to left field by Kelsey Bruder. The ball was misplayed by Arizona State left fielder Caylyn Carlson, who rushed in for the ball then was out of position as the ball hit the turf and bounced past her to the outfield fence.

"I think that set the tempo for us," Walton said. "It calmed down their nerves. OK, we're not going to get shut out, we're not going to get no-hit."

For nearly four innings, ASU pitcher Hillary Bach didn't give up anything more despite striking out just one Gator. At one point, she retired eight of nine Florida batters, matching Brombacher virtually stride for stride.

"Their defense is obviously very special. They're very good," Walton said.

"I wanted to get ground balls and let my defense help me out," Bach said.

But her luck began to run out in the fourth inning.

The Gators scored on two ground-ball singles and a throwing error by ASU shortstop Boyd. Schutte reached base on a single up the middle, advanced to second when a toss by Schutte to second baseman Michelle Nulliner on a possible double-play grounder was high. Brooks drove Schutte home with a groundball, two-out single into a defensive hole between third and shortstop.

Bach was removed from the game by Myers in the fifth inning after failing to get any of Florida's first three batters out and giving up a run. Relief pitcher Sam Parlich faced just five batters, giving up two home runs and a walk, including Brooks' walk-off blast.

Bach (25-8) would likely be ASU's starter in Game 3 Sunday. Megan Elliott (12-2) will be the starting pitcher for Game 2.

"Megan's been throwing the ball quite well," Myers said. "We're excited about our chances."