Friday March 22, 2013No. 3 Softball Sweeps Friday Doubleheader Against Arkansas; Wins Third SEC Series of Season
The No. 3 Gators first blanked Arkansas 8-0 in six innings before rallying for their 12th come-from-behind victory of the season with a 5-2 win in the nightcap to chalk up their third SEC series win with the Friday evening doubleheader sweep over the Razorbacks (21-12, 0-5 SEC).
Florida (30-3, 6-2 SEC) and Arkansas will meet Saturday at 3 p.m. at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium in the series finale, as projected inclement weather Sunday altered the originally scheduled Friday, Saturday, Sunday three-game set.
Junior ace Hannah Rogers (Lake Wales, Fla.) earned the victory in game one to improve to 16-2 in the circle for the Orange and Blue. Rogers worked a complete game and used nine strikeouts to aid her efforts. The righty held Arkansas scoreless, limiting the Razorbacks to just four hits in six innings.
In game two, it was sophomore Lauren Haeger (Peoria, Ariz.) who earned the nod – and win – in the circle for the Gators. Haeger improved to 9-1 on the season with five innings of work, allowing two runs, one free pass and striking out three before Rogers came on for her first save of the season, UF’s second this season, with two innings of scoreless relief.
Rogers finished the day with 13 strikeouts after adding four through her two-inning save in game two.
Haeger additionally led the Gators at the plate with a .667 clip, alongside senior Kelsey Horton (Valrico, Fla.), who also registered a .667 average – both going 2-for-3 at the plate, Haeger with four runs and three RBI off a double and homer and Horton with two doubles and two RBI in game two. The duo contributed to UF’s 16 overall hits in the doubleheader.
In game one of the twin bill, UF scattered three runs in the first, two in the fourth and three in the sixth to enforce the run rule, topping the Razorbacks 8-0 in six innings for the team’s 10th mercy rule of the year, 12th shutout.
UF put up eight hits to Arkansas’ four, powered by a 2-for-2 performance from Haeger, who knocked her fifth home run in a span of four games to get the Gators on the board first. Haeger finished with two walks, two runs and three RBI in game one. Junior Stephanie Tofft (Lincoln, Calif.) was 1-for-1 with a RBI and walk, while freshman centerfielder Kirsti Merritt (Lake Panasoffkee, Fla.) was 2-for-3 with two runs, a walk and a RBI.
Florida first used Haeger’s 12th bomb of the year – a two-run shot in the first – to go up, 2-0, before Tofft connected for a RBI double for the 3-0 UF lead.
In the fourth, Merritt and Haeger led UF’s offensive charge for two more Gator runs, the first on a Merritt RBI single before Haeger knocked a RBI double – her eighth of 2013 – to right center, her second consecutive game with two extra-base hits, both being a double and homer.
With a 5-0 lead heading to the bottom of the sixth, UF used three more runs to enforce the mercy rule, first when freshman Kelsey Stewart (Wichita, Kan.) scored from third on a Kimmy Beasley wild pitch to take UF up, 6-0, before freshman Taylor Schwarz (Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.) ripped a two-RBI double, her first of the season, to left field for the 8-0 victory.
Arkansas’ first hit of the game came in the third on a Sierra Bronkey base hit to left field. Bronkey and two other Razorbacks, Clarisa Navarro and Amanda Geile, were 1-for-2 in game one. Beasley (4-5) shouldered the loss in the circle for Arkansas, working a complete game with six strikeouts, six walks and UF’s eight hits and runs.
In game two of the doubleheader, Florida used a three-run third inning to erase a 2-0 deficit after Arkansas plated two runs in the top of the first for the early lead.
Sophomore Briana Little (Middleburg, Fla.) and Horton were both 2-for-3, Little with three RBI and Horton with two, to account for all five of UF’s runs batted in. Arkansas opted to pitch around Haeger, who drew three of Florida’s seven walks in the nightcap.
Little got things started in the third inning for the Gators with a RBI blooper over the Arkansas’ third baseman’s head to plate Merritt, who reached on a leadoff triple off the left-field wall to start chipping away at the Razorback lead, 2-1.
Next up, Horton hit the same sweet spot on the left field wall as Merritt for a two-RBI double that took the Orange and Blue ahead, 3-2, counting as the senior right fielder’s third game-winning RBI of the season. The Gators didn’t look back as Little accounted for two more runs in the bottom of the fourth on a hard-hit ball to left field that plated both Haeger and Stewart from third and second, respectively, for the 5-2 lead after four.
Florida kept the offensive splurge going in the fifth after a Horton leadoff double, followed by a Schwarz infield single and a one-out Stewart infield single for ducks on the pond. Arkansas starting pitcher Chelsea Cohen forced a pop up and strikeout to retire the side.
Rogers came on to finish out the sixth and seventh in the circle for Haeger and Florida to earn her first save of the season after picking up the win in game one. The Gators and Rogers averted a threat in the top of the sixth when the Razorbacks loaded the bases with one down. Rogers fanned Jayme Gee and pinch hitter Lauren Montgomery to get out of the jam.
Both teams went three up, three down in the bottom of the sixth and top of the seventh, respectively, as Florida earned its sixth conference win with the Friday sweep.
Cohen moved to 10-5 in the circle, as Arkansas’ Stephanie Canfield led the Razorback offense with a 3-for-4 evening in game two.
The Gators and Razorbacks will meet Saturday in the series finale at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium. First pitch is slated for 3 p.m.
Following the weekend conference series with the Razorbacks, the Gators will host Sunshine State rival FSU in a non-conference mid-week clash at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium Wednesday, March 27. The game will be broadcast live on SunSports/FS Florida. UF will then hit the road to finish out the month of March with a SEC series at Ole Miss March 29-31 before returning back to Gainesville for a five-game home stand April 3-10.
For live updates, box scores, stats, pictures and recaps throughout the season, be sure to visit UF on GatorZone, follow the Gators on Twitter and visit the team on Facebook for all the latest on Gator softball. For broadcast and television information, visit the UF softball schedule page.