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Gators reach first softball College World Series

IN THE FINAL: Jemile Weeks is congratulated after a three-run homer, which helped Miami reach today’s ACC final.

Associated Press

IN THE FINAL: Jemile Weeks is congratulated after a three-run homer, which helped Miami reach today’s ACC final.

GAINESVILLE — Florida shortstop Megan Bush's error with two outs in the sixth allowed California to tie the score at 2 and send Saturday's NCAA softball Super Region into extra innings.

So it was only fitting that Bush helped get top-seeded Florida out of that jam.

Having struggled all weekend at the plate, the freshman from California hit a leadoff home run to right-centerfield in the top of the ninth to lead Florida to a 4-2 win. The Gators advanced to their first College World Series, which begins Thursday. The Gators play Houston or Louisiana Lafayette in the first game.

"There were so many things running through my mind, I was just running around the bases trying to get around as fast as I could," Bush said. "I was looking for that pitch and I got it."

Florida (67-3) tied the NCAA record for wins in a season with three other schools: Arizona in 1998 (67-4), Illinois-Chicago in 1999 (67-17) and Tennessee in 2005 (67-15).

"That says a lot," UF third-year coach Tim Walton said. "It's an unbelievable accomplishment to win 67 games in any sport."

Florida led 2-0 after five innings, and with pitcher Stacey Nelson (45-3) keeping the Golden Bears stymied offensively (nine strikeouts), the Gators looked in command.

But on the ensuing batter after Bush's error, Cal third baseman Katie Vickers hit a two-run double to left, and suddenly it seemed a third and decisive game was on the horizon.

"It gave us a lot of momentum," Vickers said.

But Nelson shut down the Golden Bears (43-27), allowing no hits in the final three innings.

"What a great day for all these young ladies that played their hearts out and gave us everything they've got," Walton said.

ACC baseball

JACKSONVILLE — Jemile Weeks hit a three-run homer and Enrique Garcia threw seven scoreless innings to lead top seed Miami into today's ACC championship game with a 5-2 victory over North Carolina State.

The Hurricanes (46-8), ranked No. 3 in Baseball America, face Virginia at 1 p.m. Virginia, clinched a spot Friday because it had defeated Florida State, the only team that could tie the Cavaliers for first place going into Virginia's game late Saturday.

FSU (48-10), ranked No. 4, defeated top-ranked North Carolina 9-6, rallying for six runs in the ninth. The comeback, interrupted by a rain delay, was capped by Buster Posey's pinch-hit two-run single.

More baseball

BIG EAST: Stewart Ijames broke a tie with a two-run single in the eighth to lead Louisville past Cincinnati 6-3 in the final at Clearwater's Bright House Field. Third baseman Chris Dominguez was named tournament MVP for the Cardinals (41-19). USF designated hitter Stephen Hunt was named to the all-tournament team.

SEC: Blake Dean's eighth-inning grand slam helped LSU top Alabama 12-8 and reach today's final against Mississippi, which defeated Vanderbilt 8-7.

SUN BELT: In Lafayette, La., FAU hit three homers to top Western Kentucky 6-5, forcing a rematch late for a spot in today's final.

TAMPA: The Spartans start their drive toward an unprecedented third straight Division II title today against Ashland (Ohio) in Sauget, Ill. Tampaspartans.com will provide live coverage of the UT games.

Elsewhere

LACROSSE: Duke's 2006 season was scuttled by a rogue prosecutor and a since-debunked rape charge. In every other year since, Johns Hopkins has beaten the Blue Devils in the Final Four.

Johns Hopkins beat top-seeded Duke 10-9 in Foxborough, Mass., for a spot in Monday's final. Five players on this Duke team were granted an extra year of eligibility to make up for the aborted season.

Syracuse beat Virginia 12-11 in double overtime and faces Johns Hopkins on Monday.

In the women's tournament in Towson, Md., Penn defeated Duke 9-8 late Friday and faces Northwestern today in the final.

Information from Times wires contributed to this report.

Gators reach first softball College World Series 05/24/08 [Last modified: Saturday, May 24, 2008 11:51pm]
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