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Tuesday, June 25, 2024

OKLAHOMA CITY - The Gators only needed one swing to break the game open with pitcher Stacey Nelson shutting down the Wolverines in the circle Friday night.

Shortstop Megan Bush hit her second home run of the tournament, Nelson gave up just one hit and No. 1 UF (62-3) escaped with a 1-0 victory against fifth-seeded Michigan (47-11) in the second round of the Women's College World Series.

Batting fifth in the order after coach Tim Walton shuffled the lineup, Bush broke a scoreless tie in the top of the sixth with a booming solo shot to left off Michigan's Nikki Nemitz.

"Nobody's hotter right now in the postseason than Megan Bush is," Walton said. "So moving up her up to the five (spot) was really a result of that. I just felt like that was going to be the best lineup adjustment."

Nelson (41-3, 0.39 ERA) was as dominant as ever against the Wolverines, striking out nine in a complete-game shutout. This was the second time this season Nelson had her way with Michigan's lineup, as the senior ace turned in a three-hit, nine-strikeout performance on Feb. 25 in Gainesville.

With the victory, Nelson is now tied for sixth place on the NCAA's all-time wins list with Cat Osterman of Texas.

"I look at her stuff she's had over the last four games, her stuff is incredible," Walton said. "I told our team after the first inning when she went out on defense and pitched that we needed to get her one run."

The Wolverines threatened to score in the fourth when leadoff hitter Bree Evans singled through the left side and advanced to third on two straight bunts that put runners in scoring position with one out. Nelson then struck out Roya St. Clair and Maggie Viefhaus to get out of the inning unscathed and preserve the shutout.

"You have to give credit where credit is due, and Stacey Nelson was fabulous," Michigan coach Carol Hutchins said. "She did a great job, and we did not make the adjustments at the plate. I have to say it's very hard to make adjustments against her."

Although Michigan's hitters were ineffective against UF, its pitchers proved to be a tough challenge for the revamped Gators lineup.

Hutchins started sophomore Jordan Taylor in the circle Friday instead of Nemitz (28-6, 0.92 ERA), who struggled against the Gators in their regular-season matchup. Taylor earned the start with her early season performance against UF, when she pitched 4.2 scoreless innings and struck out six batters.

Taylor turned in a nearly identical performance Friday, giving up just three hits and striking out five batters in 4.1 innings before being replaced by Nemitz.

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Nemitz only gave up two hits in relief, but the changeup she threw to Bush in the sixth resulted in the only hit that mattered.

"It became a pitchers duel, and it ended up being a one-pitch game," Hutchins said.

The Gators will get a day off before resuming WCWS play Sunday in the semifinals, where their tournament run ended last season.

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