Saturday May 11, 2013Gator Softball Advances to SEC Tourney Championship Game With 9-5 Victory Over Georgia in Semifinals
Five extra-base hits, including two blasts from freshman Taylor Schwarz (Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.), helped lead the Florida (51-7) softball squad to a SEC Tournament Semifinals victory over Eastern Division rival Georgia, 9-5, advancing the Gators to the SEC Tourney Championship Game Saturday night at 8 p.m. on ESPN.
Florida will make its sixth SEC Championship Game appearance, second consecutive after facing Alabama in the 2012 league finale. Florida will face the winner of Tennessee/Missouri, currently being played at John Cropp Stadium in Lexington. UF took two of three from Tennessee in Gainesville, all three games going eight innings, while the Orange and Blue played the longest game in Florida history against Missouri in a non-conference clash at the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic in Palm Springs, Calif. The Tigers came out on top, 4-3, following the 12-inning thriller.
UF has twice won the SEC Tournament: 2008 and 2009, having played in the conference tournament title game in 1997, 2007 and 2012 as well. Florida is now 21-23 (.875) all-time in the SEC Tournament. The Gators are 13-4 (.764) against top-25 opponents, tops in the SEC, own 17 come-from-behind wins – seven in SEC play – and are 5-2 (.714) in extra-inning games in 2013. Florida owns 18 shutouts, paced by Rogers’ nine.
Schwarz went yard in both the first and third innings and Florida put up 12 hits, its most against a SEC opponent, as the Gators reached double-digit hits for the fifth time against a SEC opponent this season. Junior Stephanie Tofft (Lincoln, Calif.) was a perfect 3-for-3 with two RBI and two runs scored, while Schwarz checked in 2-for-4 with three RBI and two runs scored. Freshman Kirsti Merritt (Lake Panasoffkee, Fla.) additionally reached base in her 16th straight game for the Gators.
Junior ace Hannah Rogers (Lake Wales, Fla.) (7.0 IP, 5 H, 5 ER, 3 BB, 7K) picked up the win in the circle, tossing a no-hitter through four innings to improve to 29-5 for the Gators.
Two two-run jacks highlighted the first inning against the Bulldogs Saturday in the SEC Tournament Semifinals, as sophomore designated player Lauren Haeger (Peoria, Ariz.) blasted a two-out bomb to left field for the 2-0 lead, her 17th of the season, before Schwarz followed with a two-run dinger of her own to straight-away center.
Tofft started things off, using her speed to beat a two-out infield single bounced to the UGA second baseman to set up Haeger’s success, while senior Kelsey Horton (Valrico, Fla.) was hit by a pitch before Schwarz went yard with her eighth long ball of the season, chasing UGA starter Geri Ann Glasco (0.2 IP, 3 H, 4 ER, 0 BB, 1 K) from the circle.
Tofft struck again in the second for the Orange and Blue, again with two outs, sending a two-run single up the middle to pour it on and extend the Gators’ lead, 6-0.
A solo bomb from Schwarz, this time to left field, and a RBI triple from freshman Kelsey Stewart (Wichita, Kan.) – her staggering eighth of the season, plated UF’s seventh and eighth runs of the game against Georgia.
After Rogers forced three up, three down in the top of the fourth, Horton connected for a RBI single to plate UF’s ninth run of the game to bring Tofft home after the Gators’ third baseman connected for her third hit of the day, moved to second on the play and took third on a UGA passed ball before Horton sent her home for the 9-0 Gators advantage.
Tess Sito led off the fifth for the Bulldogs, Georgia’s first hit of the day, to break up Rogers’ no-hitter through four, and Georgia found its way on the scoreboard after a RBI groundout and Paige Wilson two-out, two-run double down the right-field line that narrowed UF’s lead, 9-3.
Sophomore Jess Damico (Gray Summit, Mo.) led off the bottom of the sixth with a double – her fourth two-bagger of the season – but relief pitcher Morgan Montemayor (5.1 IP, 9 H, 2 ER, 3 BB, 5 K) retired the side with a pop up, ground out and strikeout.
The Bulldogs didn’t back down, as Wilson came through with a two-run single to narrow the Gators lead to 9-5 in the top of the seventh, but Rogers fanned Glasco and forced Kaylee Puailoa to ground out to end the game.
In addition to ESPN coverage, Gator fans can also keep track of all Florida’s games live locally and online on the radio at 105 The Game, with Adam Schick and Megan Bush on the call. For all broadcast information throughout the postseason, stay posted to UF’s schedule page on GatorZone.com.
Florida, the first team in the country to 50 wins, chalked up the program’s fifth 50-win season in history with its 8-4 SEC quarterfinals victory over Alabama Thursday.
2013 SEC SOFTBALL TOURNAMENT BRACKET (remaining)
Saturday, May 11
Game 8: Missouri vs. Tennessee (ESPN3)
1:30 p.m. ET
Championship Game: Florida vs. Tennessee OR Missouri (ESPN)
8 p.m. ET
Florida Head Coach Tim Walton
Opening statement ...
“Well first of all congratulations to Georgia, obviously they're a really talented team. I know they're going to do great things. They have a good coaching staff and a good team, so I just send my congratulations to them and safe travels as we all get ready for Regionals. Obviously it's easy on the 'W' side, but again thanks to ESPN for the coverage for how they portray not only our team but the SEC as well. I'm happy with the way our team swung the bat today. I've talked about the difference of this team being a good team and a great team and it's being able to score runs. We played great defense, pitching and throwing the ball well and now we can add the third component to it and I think it's huge as you start to move towards elimination type games.”
On good hitting from the freshmen and the total team effort ...
“Not only Taylor (Schwarz) but our team in general - just scoring runs today with two outs and a lot of good hits. I'm proud of the fight in the at bats and the confidence that they have. I thought it was really good. Taylor Schwarz obviously just missed hitting her third home run to the third field of the day, so that was huge. Good at bats. But I'm proud of our whole team. We had a lot of nice things out there today. A clutch triple, we got some doubles, some good singles. Again, I thought we really swung the bat well against two good pitchers.”
On Florida’s play so far this post-season …
“Bailey (Castro) smelled the funnel cake the first inning and wanted it. I said that the only way to get the funnel cake is to get a hit. She gets a hit and comes into the dugout and tells me that I owe her a funnel cake. We will have to take care of that for Bailey. We are getting some good pinch hits and those are hard to do. Bailey gets a walk the other day and Ensley Gammel gets hit by a pitch and a sacrifice bunt. Today Bailey gets a single and Jessica Damico gets a double. The five pinch hit at bats have been good and you can’t script anything like that. It is nice for a team to have eleven players that can play for them.”
On winning the regular season and now having the chance to win the tournament …
“It is humbling and a little surreal. We have definitely backed up our regular season. I am proud of our team. We only got 55 minutes of practice time. If you would have told me that we were going to throw up nine runs after that practice we would have done that more often. I am proud of the way we play and how they just roll with it. They don’t get overwhelmed by anything. We have had to readjust the schedule because of weather and I am just proud of them.”
On shutting down Georgia …
“We did not really shut them down, it was more like slow them down. They are a very emotional team and very contagious. They were very contagious today both good and bad. I have to give credit to Hannah (Rogers). I thought she did a great job. Georgia doesn’t strike out a lot and I was really impressed with her stuff.”
#13, Hannah Rogers, P
her pitching performance …
“I was just mixing it up and being confident with every pitch. I was trusting the calls and letting my defense work for me behind me.”
the chance of winning the regular season title and tournament title …
“I am excited. We are playing well right now and our team is going out there and hitting well and putting runs on the board early, and it’s easy to go out there and pitch when they do that for you.”
#49, Taylor Schwarz, 1B
her offensive performance against Georgia …
“I was seeing the ball really well today. I was just getting my foot down on time and seeing the ball really well. Things happen.”
On getting off to a good start …
“I don’t think early games are hard for this team. From the start we were hyped, especially with our coaching staff and managers getting hyped with music before the game. We were ready when we stepped on that field.”