May 24, 2008
Gainesville, Fla. - The No. 1-ranked Florida Gators advanced to the Women's College World Series after a nail biting 4-2 victory (in nine innings) over the California Golden Bears in the NCAA Softball Super Regional elimination game at Pressly Stadium on Saturday afternoon. Cal ends its season at 43-27.
"It was a championship game, it went into extra innings," said head coach Diane Ninemire. "The girls fought hard. Florida won the game and we want to congratulate them and wish them the best of luck in the World Series."
"Anytime you tie up a ball game, especially a tight one you feel like the momentum may be shifting and you have an opportunity," added Ninemire. "You still have to come out and play tough defense and get those timely hits going down the stretch. Unfortunately today, we had some errors that kept us out of the game and kept Florida in the game. Costly mistake of throwing it down to second base, which we weren't supposed to, do cost us a run. When you are in a championship game you have to play error-less ball. The team that makes the most errors ends up being on the other side of the coin and it showed up today."
This was the final game for seniors Julie Meyer, Erika Racklin and Katie Vickers. The trio combined for 81 runs, seven home runs and 56 RBI this season for the Bears. Racklin finished the 2008 campaign with 28 stolen bases - tied for the most in a single season in school history.
Cal proved to be the ultimate road warriors in the month of May. After playing their final home game on April 30, the Bears were on the road for four straight weekends, totaling over 4500 miles (trips to Oregon, Arizona, Fresno and Gainesville).
Valerie Arioto (1-for-3 with a run on the day) finished the season with 71 hits, six shy for the fourth most in a single season. She finished her last 24 games with 22 hits. Her 55 runs are the second most for a season in program history.
With runners on the corners in the top of the third, Florida unlocked a scoreless tie and pushed a run across the board when Kim Waleszonia scored on a double steal.
The Bears had a chance to knot the score in the bottom of the third when Vernae Sevilla led off the inning with a double to center field, before moving over to third base on a sacrifice bunt by Julie Meyer. But Florida junior hurler Stacey Nelson recorded a strikeout and induced a groundout to end the inning.
The Gators (67-3) added to their lead in the fifth when Francesca Enea doubled to the left field wall to plate Aja Paculba, who singled up the middle, pushing the lead up to 2-0.
Cal found life in the bottom of the sixth inning and stunned the Gainesville faithful when Vickers planted a double to left field to plate Arioto (who led off with a single) and pinch runner Shannon Houston to tie the score at 2-2.
Short stop Megan Bush boosted the Gators in the lead when she hit a solo home run over the right center field wall in the top of the ninth. Florida added another run in the frame when Paculba singled home Danyell Hines for a 4-2 lead.
Nelson surrendered three hits to earn her 45th win of the season for the Gators. The doubles by Vickers and Arioto brought Cal's season total to 77 - third most for a season in program history. Cal's 280 RBI is a new single season program record, eclipsing last year's record of 278.