Gators' NCAA loss sets path for USF softball
USF softball's path at the NCAA regionals in Gainesville took a surprising turn Friday night, as the host Gators, seeded fifth nationally, lost 2-1 to Florida Gulf Coast, meaning the Bulls will face the Eagles today at 1 p.m. for a spot in Sunday's regional finals.
USF (46-11) beat Florida and FGCU in the regular season, but the possibility of not having to face the Gators on their home field is a promising one -- FGCU's RPI, by comparison, is 81 as opposed to 7 for UF. The USF-FGCU winner advances to Sunday, while the loser has to play again tonight against the winner of the UF-Central Florida game at 3:30.
USF and FGCU met on the opening day of the season, Feb. 10, with the Bulls prevailing 4-2 in Tampa. FGCU outhit USF 8-5, with Lindsey Richardson keeping their bats in check in 4.1 scoreless innings. Sara Nevins came on in relief and gave up six hits, including a two-run home run in the seventh, but she got a strikeout to end the game with the tying run at the plate.
USF could turn to Nevins or Richardson today, and they'll likely face FGCU ace Shelby Morgan, who threw a complete game against the Gators and is now 23-6, with a 1.38 ERA entering the weekend. FGCU got a solo home run Friday from East Lake's Kristen Bembnowski, but the bat to watch out for is Chelsea Zgrabik, who hit .340 with 13 home runs and 53 RBIs this season.
Florida is now playing without three key players who were released from the team before Friday's game due to an undisclosed "altercation," according to the parent of two players, former 49ers star Kevin Fagan. Here's the story from the Ocala Star-Banner.
Today's USF-FGCU winner would be in strong position Sunday, having two chances to win against tonight's surviving team to advance to Super Regionals. USF has made the NCAA's round of 16 just once in its history, in 2006.