Sunday April 7, 2013No. 3 Softball Edged, 6-5, by Mississippi State in Series Finale Sunday
Florida softball freshman catcher Taylore Fuller (Trenton, Fla.) launched UF’s third grand slam of the weekend in the second inning and junior Kelsey Horton (Valrico, Fla.) hit the Gators’ fifth homer of the series with a solo shot in the sixth, but Mississippi State held on for a 6-5 win in the series finale between the Gators (38-4, 12-3 SEC) and Bulldogs (24-14, 3-9 SEC) Sunday at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium.
The Bulldogs put up five runs on seven hits in the second inning for the 5-0 lead early, but Florida didn’t back down, putting up a four spot on Fuller’s grand slam in the bottom of the second before Horton brought UF within one run in the sixth with her seventh blast of the year.
Mississippi State lefty Stephanie Becker earned the start for the Bulldogs Sunday, her second against the Gators this weekend, before being replaced by Alison Owen in the circle in the bottom of the third. Owen (13-6) worked 5.0 innings to pick up the win.
Fuller, junior Stephanie Tofft (Lincoln, Calif.) and sophomore Jess Damico (Gray Summit, Mo.) each blasted their first career grand slams this weekend, bringing UF’s season total to 11. Despite dropping the finale, the Gators added their fifth SEC series win after taking victories Friday and Saturday against the Bulldogs, no-hitting MSU in the series opener and using Damico’s grand slam for the game-winner Saturday.
Horton led UF at the plate through the weekend series against Mississippi State with a .667 clip (4-for-6), including a double, two homers, five RBI and a team-tying four walks. Freshmen Taylor Schwarz (Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.) and Fuller hit .286 and .250 through the conference set, respectively, as UF’s second and third batting average leaders on the weekend.
Horton was 2-for-3 at the plate Sunday with two runs and one RBI, while Fuller was 1-for-3 with a run scored and four RBI. Tofft and Schwarz both additionally turned in 1-for-3 performances for the Gators’ five hits.
Florida used the efforts of the entire Gator pitching staff throughout the span of the series, as junior Hannah Rogers (Lake Wales, Fla.) tossed her first career complete-game no-hitter Friday before picking up the save Saturday. Rogers earned the start Sunday, while sophomore Alyssa Bache (Clearwater, Fla.) came on for 3.2 innings of relief and classmate Lauren Haeger (Peoria, Ariz.) came on for the final 1.1 to close out the contest.
Rogers (22-3) picked up just her third loss of the season after State’s five runs and seven hits in the second.
Similar to Saturday’s contest, Mississippi State jumped out to an early lead with a five-run, seven-hit second inning to go ahead of the Gators, 5-0, on a Briana Bell home run and Erin Nesbit, Jessica Cooley and Logan Foulks RBI base hits, but Florida didn’t falter, posting a four-run second frame themselves on Fuller’s first career grand slam.
Facing their largest deficit of the season, UF went to work in the second, as Horton and Schwarz led off the home half of the inning with consecutive base hits and sophomore Briana Little (Middleburg, Fla.) walked to load the bases. After a pop up for one down, Fuller stepped in and battled, jacking a 3-2 Becker offering over the left-field fence to bridge the gap, 5-4, with her second long ball of the year.
State was feisty, though, adding a sixth run on a Loryn Nichols RBI single in the top of the third, but Florida’s sharp defense had a play at the dish when the Bulldogs tried to plate two on the play, resulting in a 6-4 ballgame after the third under Bache’s watch.
With zeros on the board through the fourth and fifth, the Gators brought on Haeger in the top of the sixth to change the look for the third out in the frame on a Tofft grab in foul territory through the fence by the Gators’ dugout, while Florida used yet another long ball in the series to inch closer to the Bulldogs on a Horton solo shot in the bottom of the inning to narrow MSU’s lead, 6-5.
With a one-run ballgame heading to the seventh, the Orange and Blue turned a clutch 6-4-3 double play for two outs before a defensive miscue, but the Gators rebounded when Fuller gunned to sophomore shortstop Katie Medina (Downey, Calif.) to catch Bell attempting to swipe second for the third out.
In the home half of the stanza, Owen was effective, forcing three up three down to UF’s 7, 8 and 9 hitters on a foul out, pop up and fly out to preserve Mississippi State’s third conference win and first victory over the Gators since April 26, 2007.
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 (Lake Panasoffkee, Fla.) game-tying single before sophomore 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