May 8, 2009
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - A 12-hit offensive outburst and four home runs helped No. 1 Florida (54-3) race past No. 16 Tennessee (38-16-1), 11-3 (5 inn.), on Friday night in the Southeastern Conference Tournament semifinals at the Lee Softball Stadium. The Gators move on to battle No. 3 Alabama (47-8) at 1:30 p.m. ET on Saturday in the title game slated to be broadcast on Fox Sports Net.
Junior right fielder Erinn Webb led UT's offense with a 2-for-3 effort with two doubles while knocking in a pair of runs as part of a three-tally first inning. Sophomore first baseman Jen Lapicki delivered a RBI single as part of a 1-for-3 performance at the dish.
Lady Vol freshman hurler Cat Hosfield dropped to 28-12 on the season after permitting six earned runs on seven hits with four walks and a K in 3.2 innings of work.
"Florida is a great team one through nine in the line-up, in the pitching circle, on the field and in the coaching box," Lady Vol co-head coach Ralph Weekly said. "They deserved to win tonight, and they deserve to be ranked No. 1. We certainly wish them the best the rest of the way this season."
The first pitch of the game set an interesting tone as junior second baseman Nicole Kajitani bounced a routine ball to short that was misplayed for an error by UF's Megan Bush. Sophomore center fielder Kelly Grieve sacrificed the runner up 60 feet to second via a perfect bunt to the circle. A groundout from junior catcher Tiffany Huff to second, allowed the runner to cruise into third with two retired in the frame. Florida starter Stephanie Brombacher issued a walk to freshman third baseman Jessica Spigner, giving Lapicki a chance to be an early heroine. The Oldwick, N.J., native ripped a liner to third that ricocheted just off the edge of Corrie Brooks' glove for a single as Kajitani raced home with the game's initial run. Up 1-0 and with runners occupying first and second, Webb drove a 3-2 offering past reaching shortstop Bush and to the wall in left center for two RBIs as Tennessee nabbed a huge 3-0 advantage. Sophomore designated player Ashton Ward kept things going by drawing a free pass, but an infield pop-up to short finally ended the frame.
Facing a quick deficit on the scoreboard, UF second baseman Aja Paculba ripped a 2-2 pitch into the gap in left center for a lead-off double. Catcher Kristina Hilberth bounced out to second base as the runner advanced up 60 feet to third. Florida first baseman Ali Gardiner cut into the Tennessee advantage by driving a pitch from Hosfield the other way and down the right field line for a two-run homer as UT's lead was quickly cut to 3-2. After a strikeout of left fielder Francesca Enea, right fielder Kelsey Bruder was struck by a pitch. That set the stage for Brooks as she blooped a ball down the right field line that bounced just off the glove of a diving Webb for a triple as Bruder came around to tie the contest. Bush followed with a RBI single as the Gators nabbed the lead at 4-3. Designated player Tiffany DeFelice battled over 11 pitches before drawing a free pass to reach, but she stayed right there as center fielder Michelle Moultrie bounced into a fielder's choice at second to end the approximately 40 minute first inning.
Kajitani managed a battle of her own in the top of the second as she fought new pitcher Stacey Nelson over a 15-pitch at-bat before drawing a one-out walk. Grieve followed with an eight-pitch at-bat before slapping sharply to third for out number two as the runner improved to second. A wild pitch from Nelson and a walk issued to Huff placed runners at the corners as the fireworks continued. Spigner also walked to load the bases as UF's ace crossed the 40-pitch mark in the half-inning. The trio remained stranded as Lapicki hit one off the end of the bat back to the circle for the third out.
In the bottom half of the second with Ward relieving to start the inning, freshman shortstop Ashley Andrews made an outstanding play on a bouncer to deep short from Hilberth. The UT fielder dove to corral the ball, pivoted 180 degrees on her knees and fired in time to first to complete a web gem play. With two down in the frame, a walk issued to Gardiner came back to hurt the Lady Vols. That free pass allowed the opportunity for Enea and Bruder to hit back-to-back home runs as the Gator lead improved to 7-3. The power show continued as Brooks made it three straight HR's on a towering blast to left as the advantage expanded to 8-3. Pieroni entered in relief of Ward and got UT out of the inning on a fly ball to center from Bush.
A RBI groundout to short from Hilberth in the bottom of the third allowed the Gators to add to their lead as UF nabbed a 9-3 advantage.
Another Gator error, this one on a ground ball to third from Kajitani starting the top of the fourth, allowed Tennessee a lead-off base runner. With one retired, Huff reached on a fielder's choice, placing two aboard for Spigner. She bounced back to the circle as Nelson fielded her position, turned and tossed to third to start a 1-5-3 double play, getting Florida out of the inning.
With the Orange & Blue having added another run on the scoreboard in the bottom of the fourth, Webb tried to get something going for Tennessee in the top of the fifth by driving a one-out double into the gap in left center. Unfortunately, a double play derailed any possible scoring chance as the game remained 10-3 in UF's favor.
A RBI double in the bottom of the fifth brought home UF's 11th tally of the contest, evoking the run-rule as the Gators advanced on to face Alabama in the championship contest of the SEC Tournament on Saturday at 1:30 p.m. ET