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Saturday April 6, 2013Jess Damico Grand Slam Fuels No. 3 Softball's 4-2 Come-From-Behind Win Against Mississippi State

Gainesville, Fla.

One swing of the bat in the bottom of the sixth for Jessica Damico (Gray Summit, Mo.) erased a 2-0 deficit for the No. 3 Gator softball squad, as the sophomore knocked her first grand slam donning the Orange and Blue to give Florida a 4-2 series-clinching victory against Mississippi State Saturday in front of 1,584 fans at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium.


A resilient Gator (38-3, 12-2 SEC) squad battled for its 14th come-from-behind win of the season using Damico’s grand slam – Florida’s 10th of the season – to top a feisty Mississippi State (23-14, 2-9 SEC) team. For Damico, the game-winning hit marked her fourth this season for Florida, giving the Gators their fifth SEC series win of the season.


Sophomore righty Lauren Haeger (Peoria, Ariz.) earned the nod and win in the circle for UF (6 IP, 1 ER, 4 K, 2 BB) to improve to 10-1. After tossing a no-hitter in Friday’s series-opener, junior Hannah Rogers (Lake Wales, Fla.) came on for her third save of 2013 with an inning of scoreless relief in the seventh, fanning two of the four batters she faced to close things out for the Gators.


UF drew three walks and three hit-by-pitches through game two of the series, including two walks and a hit-by-pitch to juice the bags for Damico’s sixth bomb of the year in the sixth, to help spur the Florida offense Saturday. Sophomore Bailey Castro (Pembroke Pines, Fla.) was pegged twice on the afternoon, bringing UF’s season HBP total to 55, four away from the single-season record 59.


Florida tallied four hits to State’s six, as the Gators faced MSU ace Alison Owen (12-6), drawing three walks against the righty that had given up just seven walks on the season, two in conference play. Owen fanned seven and was charged four earned runs for the grand slam.


On a mission, Haeger fanned the first two batters of the game and forced the third to fly out to center to retire the Bulldogs in the top of the first. Haeger struck with her third K in the second inning to hold MSU hitless in the frame, the ninth straight inning the Gators held their opposition hitless.


In the bottom of the second, the Gators had runners on first and second with one out after a hit-by-pitch and a one-out fielding error for the Bulldogs, but Owen retired the side with two Ks to prevent UF from capitalizing with its second and third base runners of the afternoon.


Mississippi State then put up one run each in the third and fourth innings to take a 2-0 lead over Florida to the sixth.


The Bulldogs used a two-hit third to plate the first run of the game on a Logan Foulks RBI double, but UF’s defense quickly ended inning, throwing Foulks out at second after she rounded the bag, considering third. Jessica Offutt starting things off with a hard-hit single to third and Jessica Cooley drew a two-out walk to set up Foulks’ two-out RBI double.


Freshman Kelsey Stewart (Wichita, Kan.) led off the home half of the third with a slow dribbler to short and beat out the throw for an infield single, UF’s first hit of the day, and junior Stephanie Tofft (Lincoln, Calif.) bunted her over to second before Haeger drew a one-out walk for a little momentum, but Owen again used two straight Ks to keep UF off the board in the stanza.


A Gator defensive miscue on a sac bunt in the top of the fourth allowed the Bulldogs’ second run – Briana Bell – to cross the dish after Bell led off the inning with a base hit to left field.


Next up for UF, a Horton one-out high-flying double to left center, followed by a freshman Kirsti Merritt (Lake Panasoffkee, Fla.) sacrifice bunt, put the Gators in position to threaten with a runner at third in the home half of the fourth with two down, but Owens forced a foul out to end the inning and maintain to the 2-0 Bulldog advantage.


After a scoreless fifth for both teams that kept MSU ahead, the Gator defense buckled down in the sixth as Haeger sat down the Bulldogs’ 5, 6 and 7 hitters in order. Haeger forced Heidi Shape to pop up a bunt in foul territory, while Merritt made a Michelle Moultrie-esque diving play in shallow center on Shelby Fisher’s fly out, before Haeger handled a bouncer back to the circle herself for three up, three down to bring up UF’s winning stanza.


Castro was tagged for the second time Saturday to lead things off in the home half of the sixth for Florida, then proceeded to advance to second on a Sam Lenahan passed ball before freshman Taylor Schwarz (Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.) and senior Kelsey Horton (Valrico, Fla.) drew consecutive walks to please a rowdy Orange and Blue-clad crowd and juice the bags with no outs.


Merritt fouled out for the first out of the inning to bring up the nine-hole hitter Damico, whose 1-1 sky-high hit cleared the left-field fence for the 4-2 Gator lead. Owen limited the damage with two straight outs at the top of the Florida batting order, but Florida never looked back.


Rogers came on in the top of the seventh to close things out for Florida with an inning of scoreless relief, including two strikeouts, to pick up her third save of the season.


Florida will go for its third SEC series sweep of the season Sunday in the 12 p.m. finale against the Bulldogs.









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Florida will wrap up a five-game home stand Wednesday by playing host to in-state opponent USF April 10 for the second mid-week contest between the two squads this season, with first pitch slated for 6 p.m. from KSP. The Gators defeated the Bulls, 3-1, in Tampa on Feb. 27, thanks to a freshman Kirsti Merritt game-tying single before sophomore Lauren Haeger knocked a game-winning two-run homer to give UF a 3-1 win. The Orange and Blue will then hit the road for a three-game SEC series at Kentucky April 12-14.


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.



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