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Saturday April 13, 2013SOFTBALL: No. 3/4 Florida | No. 18/19 Kentucky Series Even After 4-2 Wildcat Win Saturday

Lexington, Ky.

Freshman second baseman Kelsey Stewart (Wichita, Kan.) went 2-for-3 and classmate Kirsti Merritt (Lake Panasoffkee, Fla.) knocked a two-run homer in the first for the 2-0 Florida lead early, but the No. 3/4 Gator softball squad fell short against No. 18/19 Kentucky, as the Wildcats rallied for a 4-2 win to square the series in Lexington Saturday.


The Orange and Blue moved to 40-5 on the season, 13-4 in league play and 7-3 (.700) over top-25 competition this season, while the Wildcats improved to 31-11 overall, 9-5 in league play in front of 1,206 fans at John Cropp Stadium, as the newly constructed facility was dedicated prior to Saturday’s contest.


Florida and Kentucky will meet Sunday in the series finale, with first pitch slated for 12 noon (ET). The Orange and Blue will be looking for their sixth SEC series win.


The Gators wasted no time getting on the board Saturday, starting with a Merritt two-run dinger to right center that plated herself and Stewart after Stewart led off the game by slapping a base hit to shallow left field to set the table. For Merritt, the homer marked her third of the season.


Kentucky then scattered one run in the first, one in the fourth and followed with a two-run sixth to hold off Florida, as sophomore righty Lauren Haeger (Peoria, Ariz.) worked in the circle for the Gators (6.0 IP, 9 H, 4 ER, 2 BB, 5 K), picking up the loss (11-2). Opposite Haeger, Kelsey Nunley (7.0 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 4 BB, 8 K) picked up the win for the Wildcats, improving to 20-4 on the year.


In the tightly contested battle, Kentucky put up its first run of the game on a Griffin Joiner RBI double to right field to narrow Florida’s margin, 2-1, in the bottom of the first. Haeger used two strikeouts and a foul out to left field for the three outs in the first frame.


In the second, Florida buckled down defensively after Kentucky worked its way to bases loaded with one out after three straight UK hits and the top of the Wildcats’ order due up. Haeger forced Maisie Steed to pop up to second before Christian Stokes sent a hard-hit grounder to second, enabling Stewart to step on the bag for the third and final out to eliminate the threat.


Florida freshman catcher Aubree Munro (Brea, Calif.) helped the Gators’ defensive efforts in the third when she threw out her team-leading sixth runner stealing this season for the final out in the bottom of the inning. Munro gunned to sophomore Katie Medina (Downey, Calif.) at short to eliminate pinch runner Kara Dill on the base paths, helping Haeger out in the circle.


After a leadoff double for the Wildcats in the bottom of the fourth inning, Kentucky’s Ginny Carroll moved to third on a ground out and scored on a Krystal Smith sac fly to right to knot the game at 2-all. A Stewart bunt single started things off for Florida in the bottom of the fifth and counted as Florida’s third hit of the day, but two fly outs and a fielder’s choice prevented the Orange and Blue from taking advantage of a leadoff runner.


Zeros laced the board for both teams in the fifth before the Wildcats plated two runs in the bottom of the sixth on a Smith two-RBI dart  into left field for the 4-2 UK lead that wouldn’t be relinquished. Nikki Sagermann singled through the left side and Carroll drew a walk for runners on first and second for the Wildcats. Haeger fanned Alice O’Brien, but UK executed a double steal to move both into scoring position for Smith’s sixth-inning success. The UK second baseman was 2-for-2 with three RBI for the Wildcats.


Merritt drew a two-out walk in the top of the seventh for the last shot at a Gator rally, but Nunley retired Haeger with her eighth K of the day for the Kentucky win.















Following the weekend set with the Wildcats, the Orange and Blue will visit No. 25 FSU Wednesday, April 17, for a mid-week tilt in Tallahassee, the second game of the Sunshine Showdown between the Gators and Noles this season. The two squads met just three weeks ago in an epic showdown at UF’s Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium, the Gators taking the 7-3 victory on a Briana Little walk-off grand slam in front of the largest crowd in Florida history. UF will then play host to Longwood in a weekend three-game set with a doubleheader Saturday (4/20) and the finale Sunday (4/21) to wrap up non-conference play. UF will complete the 2013 regular season with Georgia at home (4/26-28) before its conference finale at South Carolina (5/3-5/5).


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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