It was a great weekend of softball at Katie Seashole Pressley Stadium on the University of Florida’s campus. Perfect weather if you were a Gator, very hot and humid if you had to make the trip from UCLA. The weather might have played a bigger part than expected when you factor in the two double headers UCLA had to play to bring the Gainesville Regional to the “If Needed” game on Sunday. Officially it was 92F at game time for game one but being in the stands, it sure felt warmer than that.
Senior, Donna Kerr pitched masterfully for the Bruins despite the heat. We began to notice her cramping a little as early as the third inning. She made it through the sixth inning only because Gator runner Kelsey Bruder was called for leaving early on a steal attempt in the top of the fifth with two outs. Kerr looked like she was about to pass out in the circle prior to the pitch. Much to our surprise her coach ran her back out for the sixth where the Gators would take the lead. A lead they could not hold as UCLA came back to win the game in the bottom of the 7th forcing the “if needed” game. She was obviously having trouble dealing with the heat and the effort exerted by her over the weekend.
That’s what made it even more amazing that she tried to go or her coach let her go out for the start of game two of the day. By the start of game two the temp had risen to 95 and the sun continued to beat down. Kerr gave it her best shot but only lasted one-third of an inning and gave up four runs before being replaced. Her replacements didn’t fare much better and Florida scored 9 runs and essentially won the ball game in their first at bat. It is easy to understand why you would want your Senior pitcher to start in that game, but what is hard to understand is how you could let her go back out there when less than a hour earlier she was barely able to stand in the circle from the heat and dehydration issues.
UCLA’s coach Kelly Inouye-Perez is obviously a great coach. She’s at one of, if not, the most prestigious programs for softball. But her decisions on the day might have been clouded somewhat by feeling disrespected by the NCAA for sending her and the mighty Bruins across country to play at UF. Not only did she send a player out that shouldn’t have been in the game for her own safety, she complained about her players being hit intentionally by UF pitcher Hannah Rogers.
Gatorsports.com quoted her as saying: "Because of the history of this program, they continue to hit our best players in those situations," Inouye-Perez said. "It's just a fact. Call it what you want. Call it lucky. Call it a fluke. It just continues to happen. And we're down right now. We're definitely beat up. We're beat up as a team. For it to continue to happen, and consistently happen, to me there's more control. I think Hannah Rogers is a great pitcher. I think she's a phenomenal pitcher. And for her to lose control consistently against my best hitters is inexcusable. If she was a wild all over the place pitcher I might say something different. But she’s not.”
In a classic case of “Pot meet Kettle” let’s take a look at the stats from the three games between UCLA and UF over the weekend. In Saturday’s game both teams hit one opposing batter. Kerr hit UF leadoff hitter Michelle Moultrie in the first inning. Rogers hit UCLA’s B.B. Bates in the sixth inning in a two run game to bring the tying run to the plate. Sure Bates had hit a home run in the first, but you don’t wait two at bats and then hit her when all she can do is cut the lead to one with another home run. The Gators win that game 4-2 and put the Bruins in the losers’ bracket.
In the first game on Sunday, UF hit two batters and UCLA hit one. In the bottom of the fifth inning in a scoreless game, UF pitcher Stephanie Brombacher hit the lead off batter, Grace Murray. Murray came into Saturday’s game to replace UCLA’s injured catcher. She’s not an everyday player or even a pinch hitter, but a replacement runner for most of her four year career. After a conversation with her head coach she moves up toward the front of the box and as close to the plate as possible and leans over the plate and is hit by the first pitch. Both Brombacher and UF catcher Tiffany DeFelice both argue that she was over the plate but the umpire awards her first base anyway. Murray eventually scores the go ahead run on a sacrifice fly. In the sixth inning UF’s shortstop, Cheyenne Coyle, who chose UF over UCLA in a close recruiting duel was hit with a runner on at first. Coyle would eventually score the go ahead run for UF on a fielding error by the third baseman for UCLA. In the bottom of the 6th, Rogers hit the number 7 hitter in the UCLA lineup, Amy Crawford with one out and no one on to bring the tying run to the plate. Rogers was able to strike out the next two batters but UCLA won the game in the bottom of the 7th inning.
In the final game, coach Inouye-Perez complained to the umpires and eventually both teams were in fact warned, UF hit three UCLA batters. However, UCLA hit three Gators batters as well, one being SEC Player of the Year, Kelsey Bruder a native of California who was hit twice almost in the same spot. After a leadoff double by UCLA’s DiSalvatore, Rogers struck out Schroeder. She then hit 1B Harrison who has been hit 9 times this season and said after the game that she didn’t think Rogers intentionally hit her. If anyone was going to be hit it would have been her after her tossing the helmet celebration after scoring the winning run in game one of the day. But Harrison flipped the bat toward the UCLA dugout and glared at Rogers as she made her way to first. UCLA didn’t score in the inning. With two on in Florida’s half of the first, Kerr hit Bruder for the first time to load the bases. She would score in the inning. After DeFelice hit a home run to make it 6 to 0, Florida’s DH, Kelsey Horton was hit by UCLA’s Aleah Macon. UF replaced her with pinch runner Ensley Gammel who scored as well and at the end of the inning UF led 9-0. In the third inning, DiSalvatore was hit to lead off the inning. UCLA loaded the bases after that but didn’t score after the Gators turned a 1-2-3 double play and Rogers struck out Fox. In the bottom of the third, Bruder was hit again this time by Destiny Rodino after two outs with a runner at first. Bruder held up two fingers as she made her way down to first. Both teams were given a warning at this point and no more batters were hit.
So over the weekend, UF hit 6 and UCLA hit 5. Oh and there was another time in game two where Moultrie was either hit on the helmet or the ball hit the bat that the umpire totally missed and just called a ball that would have evened the bean ball stats. There was no way Florida was intentionally trying to hit the Bruin batters given the situations listed. I don’t think the Bruins meant to hit the Gator batters either, with the possible exceptions of Horton after the home run and Bruder’s last time up. But even if that were the case, it was just competition. What makes it something more are the comments of the UCLA coach basically, saying that this is something Coach Tim Walton and pitching coach Jennifer Rocha try to do against UCLA. She also made the comment loud enough for fans to hear that she was just trying to protect the safety of the athletes while in the third base coaching box just in front of the Gator dugout.
If you want to keep your players safe coach, don’t tell them to lean over the plate to get on base. Tell them not to crowd the plate and stand up straight and stay in the box. Tell them to move out of the way if the ball is going to hit them. You might want to even check with the trainer to see if you should send someone back out to pitch who was on the boarder of heat exhaustion and if the trainer said she was good to go, get another trainer. But don’t complain about Florida’s pitching when your staff was just as wild or just as intentional.