Wednesday March 7, 2012No. 3/4 Florida Softball Opens Southeastern Conference Play With Doubleheader Sweep at Mississippi State
Gator sophomore ace Hannah Rogers (Lake Wales, Fla.) tossed her third career one-hitter and earned her first save of the season in the circle as the No. 3/4 Florida softball squad improved to 21-1 overall on the season and jumped out of the gates on the Southeastern Conference slate with a sweep over Mississippi State in Starkville. The Gators downed the Bulldogs (14-7, 0-2) 1-0 and 8-5 in the league-opening twin bill Wednesday at the Mississippi State Softball Stadium.
Freshman Alyssa Bache (Clearwater, Fla.) earned her fourth win of the season in the nightcap after working 2.1 innings of scoreless relief after classmate Lauren Haeger (Peoria, Ariz.) earned the start in game two. Bache allowed just two hits and retired three by strikeout after MSU put up five runs, just two earned, on three hits in the first 1.2 innings under Haeger’s watch. Rogers closed out the final 3.0 in UF’s winning efforts for the save, coming up with 11 strikeouts between Wednesday’s two appearances.
Rogers earned the start in the circle in the first of the two games, retiring three Bulldogs in order with her first three strikeouts of the afternoon to set the tone early. She finished the dogfight with her third career complete-game one-hitter, the last being March 17 against Michigan State, along with one versus the Ole Miss Rebels March 18, 2011, to improve to an unscathed 11-0 on the 2012 season. In addition to three career one-hitters now, Rogers also owns two combined one-hitters, one last season, along with one just last weekend versus Gardner-Webb March 3.
The righty went the distance, allowing one hit and giving up one Bulldog walk, while fanning eight MSU student-athletes. With two outs on the board in the bottom of the fifth, Rogers allowed her first base runner, walking Bulldog Jessica Cooley to spoil a perfect game. MSU kept the momentum going with an Erin Nesbit base hit for the Maroon and White’s first hit of the contest, which would count as State’s lone hit of the contest.
Freshman utility player Jess Damico (Gray Summit, Mo.) roped a RBI triple to right center to account for Florida’s lone run in the 1-0 victory in the early game, while senior Michelle Moultrie (Jacksonville, Fla.) got the offense going with the first hit of the day for the Gators.
After leaving the bags loaded in the first and a slow second for the Orange and Blue, Moultrie laid down a perfect two-out bunt single for the Gators’ first hit of the day and proceeded to swipe second, her 15th stolen bag of the season, but a pop out ended the third for UF just as the Gators started getting adjusted at the plate.
It wasn’t until the fifth that Florida scratched its first run across home on Damico’s RBI triple, her first extra-base hit of the season. Classmate Katie Medina (Downey, Calif.) reached base on balls and scored from first base on Damico’s sixth hit of the campaign to take the Orange and Blue up, 1-0.
A two-out double for junior Kelsey Horton (Valrico, Fla.) in the top of the sixth, her second double of the season and 10th extra-base hit of the year, counted as Florida’s third hit of the contest.
The first-game pitching duel continued through the remainder of the sixth frame and on to the seventh inning, placing zeros on the board for both teams in the shootout.
Stephanie Becker (7-2) took the loss in game one for MSU, tossing a three-hitter, allowing UF’s one run, while walking three Gators. Like Rogers, Becker fanned eight opponents through the complete-game effort.
In the second of two games with the Bulldogs Wednesday, Florida took advantage of eight walks, while Horton knocked her SEC-leading ninth round-tripper of the year to help propel the UF offense early.
Florida capitalized on four first-inning walks from starter Lindsey Dunlap to take a 4-0 lead in the first frame, but Mississippi State added its first run of game two on a Sam Lenahan RBI base hit, resulting in a 4-1 ballgame after the initial stanza. Horton’s two-run bomb gave Florida a five-run advantage heading to the bottom of the second as Mississippi State called on Shana Sherrod in relief of Dunlap mid-way through the second, but the home team strung together a four-run, three-hit second frame to close the gap, 6-5.
Seven-hole hitter Erin Nesbit roped a RBI double for one run, while a Ka’ili Smith RBI single in bottom of the second narrowed the Gator margin, 6-3, spurring a pitching change in the circle for the Orange and Blue as Florida traded Haeger for Bache. After walking MSU’s Briana Bell, Lenahan struck against Bache with her second hit of the game, a two RBI single that went just over second-baseman Medina’s head, to bring the margin, 6-5, in favor of the Gators after two.
After two-consecutive hits for the Orange and Blue from Damico and freshman Sami Fagan (Dunnellon, Fla.) to kick off the third, the Maroon and White exchanged Sherrod in the circle for game one starter Becker, who effectively settled and held the Gators scoreless in the frame, forcing a foul out and strikeouts to retire the side.
After action packed first and second stanzas, scoreless third, fourth and fifth frames ensued, as the Gators went with Rogers in the circle in the fifth to close out the mid-week action. Rogers then came on in relief for the final 3.0 to earn her first save of the campaign, allowing one hit and fanning three to finish off the Bulldogs
Haeger knocked a stand-up one-out double in the top of the sixth, while pinch runner Briana Little (Middleburg, Fla.) moved to third on a wild pitch before sophomore Cheyenne Coyle (West Hills, Calif.) walked. Little scored on a Kasey Fagan (Dunnellon, Fla.) RBI single to right field to make it 7-5, UF, while the Gators executed a double steal as Coyle crossed home and Fagan swiped second for the 8-5 final score in favor of Florida.
Dunlap moved to 1-2 on the season after giving up UF’s first six runs on four hits, while also walking six.
Florida will continue its five-game league-opening spring break road trip with a visit SEC to Eastern Division rival No. 9 Tennessee March 9-11 at Sherri Parker Lee Stadium in Knoxville. Florida leads the all-time series, 35-20, including a narrow 12-11 lead on the road in Knoxville.
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