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Friday May 3, 2013No. 2/3 Florida Softball Blanks South Carolina, 5-0, to Open Series in Columbia

Columbia, S.C.

A five-run third inning fueled No. 2/3 Florida softball’s 5-0 series-opening victory over South Carolina Friday at the newly constructed Carolina Softball Stadium at Beckham Field in Columbia. Junior ace Hannah Rogers (Lake Wales, Fla.) tossed a two-hit shutout to improve to 27-4 in the circle, while UF put up eight hits and played sharp defense to improve to 48-6 overall, 17-5 in SEC play.


Junior Stephanie Tofft (Lincoln, Calif.) handled a school-record tying 10 assists at the hot corner to back up Rogers, who hurled her ninth shutout performance of the season in the circle as UF notched its 27th straight victory over the Gamecocks (30-21, 7-15 SEC), its 19th win in Columbia. Rogers fanned four and walked none through the complete-game effort.


UF’s 48 victories pace the nation and the Gators are just two wins away from their fifth 50-win season in program history. For Florida, Friday’s win marked its 18th shutout of the campaign.


After Friday’s games across the league, the Gators stand second (17-5, .773) in the SEC regular-season race behind the Tennessee Lady Vols (15-4, .789). The LSU Tigers (15-7, .682), Missouri Tigers (13-7, .650) and Georgia Bulldogs (13-9, .619) round out the top five teams heading into Saturday’s contests. The series openers between Tennessee/Missouri and Alabama/Kentucky were both postponed due to weather, with the potential of doubleheaders Saturday. LSU fell to Georgia, 10-7, in Athens Friday evening.


Gator sophomore designated player Lauren Haeger (Peoria, Ariz.) was 3-for-4 at the plate against the Gamecocks with one RBI, while freshman leadoff Kelsey Stewart (Wichita, Kan.) went 2-for-4, tying UF’s single-season freshman hits record (75), while also tying Florida’s single-season steals mark with her 31st stolen base of the season (31-34). Stewart continued a team-best hit streak Friday, connecting in her 12th straight game.


Tofft additionally plated in a run with a blooper to right field in the third, going 1-for-4. Freshman Kirsti Merritt (Lake Panasoffkee, Fla.) and sophomore Briana Little (Middleburg, Fla.) both connected for hits on the night as well to aid UF’s offensive efforts, Merritt with a RBI in the third.


In addition to Tofft’s 10 assists, UF turned a double play in the fifth to negate a Gamecock leadoff hit, the Gators’ 22nd double play of the year.


Stewart led the contest off for the Gators with a single up the middle and followed by swiping her school-record tying 31st base of the season in the first inning. While the Orange and Blue didn’t convert in the initial stanza, the Gators exploded for a five-run, five-hit third inning to grab a lead it wouldn’t relinquish, as the Florida batted through the order in the stanza, starting with eight-hole hitter, freshman catcher Aubree Munro (Brea, Calif.).


Munro drew a leadoff walk, while sophomore Katie Medina (Downey, Calif.) dropped a sac bunt and reached on a fielder’s choice following a USC defensive miscommunication, turning over the Gators lineup. Stewart dropped down a bunt single to juice the bags, her UF freshman record-tying 75th hit of the season. Next up, Merritt sent a single up the middle for the 1-0 lead, while Tofft dropped a blooper to shallow right field for the 2-0 lead. On the same play, a throwing error on USC pitcher Julie Sarratt allowed two more Florida runs to cross for the 4-0 Gator advantage.


With no outs on the board, Haeger continued to pour it on for the Orange and Blue, connecting with a single to through the left side to make it a 5-0 ballgame between Florida and South Carolina.


With one out on the board in the third, the Gamecocks traded Sarratt for Katie Marks, who was effective in retiring the side with two strikeouts, but not before Little notched her fourth double of the season, followed by Munro’s second walk of the inning, leaving three on for the Orange and Blue.


Rogers gave up USC’s first hit of the game in the bottom of the third, a leadoff double for Kelley Dillon, but retired the next three batters in the inning, while forcing three up, three down in the fourth. An Ashlyn Masters leadoff single up the middle was erased with a fielder’s choice and Gator 5-4-3 double play in the fifth for Carolina, while Rogers sent the Gamecocks back into the dugout in order in both the sixth and seventh innings.


Sarratt (2.1 IP, 5 H, 5 ER, 2 BB, 1 K) shouldered the loss for Carolina, moving to 10-6 on the season for the Gamecocks, while Katie Marks tossed 4.2 innings of relief. Marks allowed just three Gator hits and fanned three, while dishing out two free passes to the Gators.









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The Orange & Blue will next head to Lexington, Ky., for the 2013 SEC Tournament May 8-11, hosted this year by Kentucky. The complete 2013 SEC Tournament will once again air on ESPNU, with the Championship Game slated to be broadcast on ESPN2. Florida has three SEC Championships (1998, 2008 and 2009), has won the SEC Eastern Division five times (1998, 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011) and has been a top-five national seed in the NCAA Tournament the past five years.


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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