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Wednesday February 13, 2013No. 5 Gator Softball Uses Two Key Homers to Top Jacksonville 11-3 on the Road

Jacksonville, Fla.

The No. 5 Florida softball squad used two homers, including a grand slam from sophomore Briana Little (Middleburg, Fla.), to power its way to an 11-3 victory over Jacksonville at the JU Softball Complex Wednesday evening.

After falling behind 1-0 in the third, the Gators, now 6-0 on the season, used a sophomore Bailey Castro (Pembroke Pines, Fla.) game-tying blast in the top of the fourth to spark their offense, spurring a three-run fourth inning and a six-run scoring splurge in the fifth frame before UF added two in the seventh for extra insurance. Jacksonville moved to 3-2 overall on the season as the Gators maintained their clean slate against the Sunshine State opponent with an 11th straight victory.

Prior to Castro’s bomb, freshmen Kelsey Stewart (Lake Panasoffkee, Fla.) and Kirsti Merritt (Lake Panasoffkee, Fla.) had accounted for UF’s lone two hits in the first three frames. The Gators finished with 11 runs on 10 hits, while Jacksonville manufactured three runs on seven hits, two of those solo home runs for the Dolphins.

Florida saw three different Jacksonville hurlers Wednesday evening, while junior righty Hannah Rogers (Lake Wales, Fla.) earned her third victory of the season (3-0) for the Gators after going the distance. Rogers allowed seven hits, three earned runs, walked five and also recorded five Ks on the night.

Freshman pitcher Taylor Rossman (0-2) was tagged with the loss for Jacksonville after allowing the game tying and game-winning runs upon entering in the fourth.

Six different Gators collaborated for hits against the Dolphins and Florida was led by Stewart (3-5), Merritt (2-4) and junior third baseman Stephanie Tofft (Lincoln, Calif.) (2-3). Little’s four RBI led the squad, while Stewart knocked in two for UF. In front of friends and family, Little shined, as did local Mandarin High School graduate and freshman catcher Cari Broderick (Jacksonville, Fla.), who drew her first career walk donning the Orange and Blue.

Right-handed first-year hurler Victoria Brown started hot for the Dolphins Wednesday, earning the nod in the circle for JU and working the first three innings before also knocking a solo shot just to the right of the left-field foul line for her first career home run. Brown’s blast lifted the Dolphins ahead of the Gators in the bottom of the third, 1-0, before the freshman moved into the outfield for the Dolphins in favor of Rossman in the circle.

After three slow two-hit innings for the Orange and Blue, one swing of the bat for Castro in the top of the fourth knotted the ballgame at one-all with no outs to spark the Gator offense. Little then reached on a hit-by-pitch to set up a one-out RBI double for Tofft to plate Little. Tofft moved to third on the play at the plate and scampered home after an errant thrown from the catcher attempted to threaten her back to the bag, giving the Gators a 3-1 lead after the fourth.

A feisty Jacksonville squad battled back in the home half of the inning, narrowing the Florida lead to just one run after a Codi Kelly RBI base hit dropped in shallow center field to give JU its second run of the contest, 3-2.

Florida poured it on in the in the fourth with a four-hit, six-run stanza, started by a leadoff bouncer up the middle for Stewart’s second hit of the game, followed by a Merritt bunt single and a senior Kelsey Horton (Valrico, Fla.) sac bunt that moved both Stewart and Merritt into scoring position. A Castro walk juiced the bags to set up Little’s first career grand slam – UF’s third of the season – that took the Gators ahead, 7-2.

After another Jacksonville pitching change from Rossman to Dale Tillman following Little’s second career blast, Florida tacked on two more runs with a Taylor Schwarz (Palm Beach, Fla.) fielder’s choice, as another Dolphin defensive miscue allowed two runners to cross the dish for the 9-2 Gator advantage after the top of the fifth.

Sarah Simon earned a run back for the Dolphins in the bottom of the fifth with a solo shot, JU’s second homer of the night, to make it a 9-3 ballgame heading to the sixth.

Stewart struck again in the top of the seventh for her third hit of the tilt, this time a two-RBI triple to plate Florida’s final two runs in the game. For Stewart, the triple was her team-leading second of the season and gave sophomores Lauren Haeger (Peoria, Ariz.) and Katie Medina (Downey, Calif.) the go ahead to cross home, Haeger having reached with a base hit of her own and Medina after a fielder’s choice.

Rogers sat down the side in the bottom of the seventh with three consecutive fly outs, solidifying the Gators’ second come-from-behind victory of the year.

Florida will open its home schedule Feb. 15-17 with the 2013 Lipton Invitational. The Gators will host UNC Wilmington, Savannah State, Western Carolina and Charleston Southern in the first of two home tourneys for UF this season at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium.

The Gators will first square off with UNC Wilmington at 4 p.m. Friday, followed by Savannah State at 6:15 p.m. The first 500 fans will receive a free ‘Fan Since Game One’ t-shirt. The Orange and Blue will be back at it Saturday with games against Western Carolina (12 p.m.) and Savannah State (2:15 p.m.) before wrapping up weekend play with UNC Wilmington (1 p.m.) and Charleston Southern (3:30 p.m.) Sunday.

For a complete schedule of UF’s 2013 Lipton Invitational, visit the Florida softball schedule page on GatorZone.com.

Fans planning to attend UF’s Sunday Lipton Invitational games at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium should plan to arrive early, as parking will be impactedby Gainesville’s Five Points of Life Marathon. The 9 a.m. Sunday contest between Western Carolina and Savannah State will be played at Santa Fe College in Gainesville.

Be sure to follow the Gators onTwitter and visit the team on Facebook for all the latest on Gator softball.

FLORIDA VERSUS THE LIPTON INVITATIONAL OPPONENTS

Date

Opponent

Location/Field

Game Time (ET)

Series Notes

2/15

UNC Wilmington

Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium

4 p.m.

First meeting

2/15

Savannah State

Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium

6:15 p.m.

First meeting

2/16

Western Carolina

Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium

12 p.m.

First meeting

2/16

Savannah State

Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium

2 p.m.

TBD based on 2/15

2/17

UNC Wilmington

Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium

1 p.m.

TBD based on 2/15

2/17

Charleston Southern

Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium

3:30 p.m.

First meeting

 

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