May 7, 2009
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - A solo homer by UF second baseman Aja Paculba and a two-RBI double from left fielder Francesca Enea backed a two-hit complete game shutout from pitcher Stacey Nelson as No. 1 and top-seeded Florida advanced to the Southeastern Conference Tournament semifinals with a 3-0 victory over Auburn in Thursday's opening round at the Lee Softball Stadium.
Nelson worked seven innings, allowing just two hits and no runs with a walk and five strikeouts to improve to 33-3 on the season. Auburn's Anna Thompson dropped to 14-15 after permitting three earned runs on four hits with a walk and seven K's over six frames.
Left fielder Myesha Finney and third baseman Kyndall White managed base hits for the Tiger offensive effort versus the SEC Pitcher of the Year.
Nelson raced through the Auburn line-up in order in the opening frame, while a lead-off walk issued to Paculba by Tiger hurler Thompson got the Gator offense started in the bottom half of the first. A sharp single from catcher Kristina Hilberth just off the tip of the glove of leaping AU third baseman Kyndall White placed runners at first and second with still none out. Following a Florida strikeout, a one-out wild pitch advanced the base duo into scoring position, setting the stage for a two-RBI double into the left center field gap from left fielder Enea as UF nabbed a 2-0 lead.
Thompson settled down after a difficult opening inning to strike out the Florida side in the bottom of the second as shortstop Megan Bush, designated player Kim Waleszonia and center fielder Michelle Moultrie each went down on strikes.
With Nelson cruising through three frames having retired all nine batters she had faced, Paculba added to Florida's advantage in the bottom of the third with a solo home run to left center to make it 3-0.
Auburn left fielder Myesha Finney started off the fourth by recording the initial base hit of the match-up for Auburn by leading-off with a sharp single down the right field line. A botched fielder's choice at second base on a bouncer from second baseman Cassie Trosclair placed a pair aboard with still no one retired. White ripped a shot to first that was corralled by Ali Gardiner. The UF fielder turned and fired across the diamond, catching the lead runner at third. A sac bunt by catcher Elizabeth Eisterhold moved the runners up 60 feet into scoring position with two down. Designated player Tatiana Fernandez blooped a ball just over second, but shortstop Megan Bush raced over from her defensive position to make an inning-ending grab on the run, leaving a pair of Tigers stranded.
Both offenses were held in check by the dueling hurlers as Florida maintained its 3-0 lead heading into Auburn's last chance in the top of the seventh.
The Tigers got off to a good start on a sharp base knock to left field from White. Eisterhold blooped a ball into right center but it hung up just enough, allowing Moultrie time to race over to make the catch. Fernandez fell behind 1-2 before swinging and missing at strike three. With two retired, center fielder Lindsey Harrelson coerced a walk to bring the potential tying run to the dish. The duo on the base paths advanced 60 feet into scoring position via a wild pitch with Alexa Martinez standing at the plate. Unfortunately for the Tigers she bounced out to short as the Gators moved on to the semifinals.
Florida advances to face the winner of tonight's Tennessee-LSU contest at 7:30 p.m. ET on Friday at the Lee Softball Stadium.