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Alabama stuns Florida in Division I softball Super Regionals

Three runs on two walks, four sacrifice bunts and a pair of errors was all 16th seeded Alabama needed to stun top-seed Florida, 3-0, Thursday in the Division I softball Super Regionals opener

It was the fifth inning that the Gators gave away to snap a scoreless tie in the SEC softball match-up in Gainesville, and at 5th seed UCLA, Bruins get past Mississippi, 8-7

Arnie Leshin

By Arnie Leshin

Despite being the No. 1 seed for the third straight time, Florida is having problems with game ones, and in Thursday’s NCAA Division I softball Super Regionals, the Gators gave another one away.

Last year, it was SEC rival Georgia coming to Gainesville for the Region and promptly eliminating Florida in the best-of-three series. In this year’s SEC tournament, the Gators lost their first game to Mississippi State and then had to win via the loser’s bracket.

On Thursday, along came 16th seeded SEC rival Alabama, playing down its low seed and shutting down the Gators, 3-0, to again disappoint the faithful home crowd and again sent them into a win-or-else when the teams meet again tonight,

One inning, the fifth, was all the Crimson Tide (46-16) needed. Before that, Florida All-America sophomore right-hander Kelly Barnhill was in complete charge as usual. She allowed a first-inning single and then went on to strike out 10 in a row behind her high and tight fastball, bending curve and change-up.

Known as a very capable fielder, she made back-to-back errand throws to first base to break up a scoreless tie. It began with a 3-2 walk. Next, Alabama put down its first of four sacrifice bunts in the frame. But the throw to second for the force was late.

Next, a bunt laid down to the circle was picked up by Barnhill and she fired the ball over the head of the first baseman. Both runners scored. Next, an identical bunt hit back to Barnhill resulted in an identical high throw to first and it was now 3-0 with not an out being made.

But that was it. The damage? Two walks, four sacrifice bunts and Barnhill’s two errors dropped the stunned Gators to 52-8, and into a must take two to advance to the Super Regionals that they would also host.

In all, the Crimson Tide added a 7th inning double and finished with but two hits off Barmhill, who had come into this contest allowing only 13 runs all season. She struck out a dozen.

For Alabama, its own right-handed stellar junior, Alexis Osorio, needed only that one big inning as she held Florida at bay. She was reached for five hits, struck out 10 and walked two, and most important, her team played errorless ball.

“If that was the way we had to win against a great team like that, we’ll take it,” Osorio said. “In the dugout we couldn’t believe what we were seeing and then realizing that we could possibly win this game.”

In the other opening-round contest, 5th seeded UCLA, which has won 12 softball national championships, the most of any school, took a quick 4-0 lead over 12th seeded Mississippi (43-19) and then had to hold off the visitors before prevailing 8-7 in extra innings and upping its record to 46-13.

It looked like an easy opener for the Bruins, but Ole Miss put together four runs in the fourth and two in the fifth to get within one run. In the top of the seventh, it took a 7-6 lead, but UCLA scored once in the bottom of the frame and again in the eighth to win out.

Today, the remaining Super Regionals will begin play. Defending national champion Oklahoma (54-9) opens at 7th seeded Auburn (48-10) in a rematch of last year’s World Series final in Oklahoma City won by the Sooners in the best-of-three.

Eight SEC schools have dominated the field that began with 64 teams. And along with Alabama-Florida, it’s all SEC again when 9th seed Texas A & M (45-10) visits 8th seeded Tennessee (47-10). Then there’s 13th seed LSU (48-6) playing at 4th seeded FSU (54-6) of the ACC.

In Oregon, the 3rd seeded Ducks (50-6) are home to 14th seed Kentucky (41-7). In the State of Washington, its 6th seeded Huskies (46-11) play host to 11th seed Utah (36-14). And then there’s 15th seeded Baylor (45-12) coming off two no-hitters tossed in the region, at 2nd seeded Arizona (51-7).

From here will come the Elite Eight that will make its way to Oklahoma City for the World Series.

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