Tuesday May 14, 2013Florida Softball Freshman Kirsti Merritt is the Louisville Slugger/NFCA Division I National Player of the Week
Gator softball freshman Kirsti Merritt (Lake Panasoffkee, Fla.) picked up her first career weekly accolade Tuesday, as the first-year Florida centerfielder was named the Louisville Slugger/NFCA Division I National Player of the Week following her contributions to UF’s SEC Tournament Championship last weekend in Lexington.
Merritt, a Freshman All-SEC pick in the outfield, was the SEC Tournament MVP after helping lead the 52-7 Gators to their third SEC Tournament title in program history Saturday with a 10-4 victory over SEC newcomer Missouri. Merritt batted .455 with a team-best seven RBI throughout UF’s three conference tournament games as the Gators defeated Alabama 8-4 and Georgia 9-5 to advance to the tourney championship for the sixth time in school history.
“I’m thankful to the NFCA for being honored, this is very exciting, but our success last weekend was a team effort,” Merritt said. “Everyone really stepped up in the SEC Tournament, and we had a lot of fun in Lexington (Ky.) playing the game we love. We’re excited to get the NCAA Tournament started and see what this team can do in postseason play.”
Merritt had two homers over the weekend – a three-run jack against Alabama that served as the game-winner in the quarterfinals of the tournament, while sending a game-winning two-run bomb to left center in the championship game against Mizzou. Merritt was a career-best 3-for-4 with five RBI against the Crimson Tide, 1-for-3 against Georgia in the semifinals with a walk and run scored before turning in a 1-for-4 performance against Missouri with two runs and a two-run game-winning blast for the Orange and Blue that broke a 2-2 tie in the bottom of the third.
Merritt is currently hitting .305 on the year with 47 runs scored, eight doubles, four triples, six bombs and 29 RBI, while also boasting 17 steals in 20 total attempts.
“We’re very excited about this recognition for Kirsti after her great week of play, which helped propel the Gators to the SEC Tournament Championship,” Florida head coach Tim Walton said. “Kirsti played a huge role; she had a lot of clutch RBIs and hits – several with two outs and two strikes. This honor is an exclamation point to how fun she was to watch play last week.”
The Gators clinched the regular-season title two weeks ago, their fourth in school history (1998, 2008, 2009, 2013) before securing their third SEC Tournament title Saturday (2008, 2009, 2013) against the Tigers.
Florida softball squad picked up the No. 2 National Seed in the 2013 NCAA Tournament, announced Monday evening on ESPNU, marking the Gators’ sixth straight top-five national seed. The Gators will open NCAA Tournament play Friday at 6 p.m. versus Hampton, the first-ever meeting between the two squads. The Gainesville Regional will feature MEAC Champion Hampton (33-24), SoCon Champion Georgia Southern (32-28) and Sunshine State rival and BIG EAST Champion USF (43-14), as the Bulls visit Gainesville for the second straight year in NCAA Regional action.
The Gators are 23-18 (.560) in NCAA Regional play, including 18-6 (.750) under Walton. Florida advanced to an unprecedented four-consecutive Women’s College World Series from 2008-11, including appearances in the WCWS Championship Series in both 2009 and 2011. The Orange and Blue own a 43-29 (.602) all-time record in the NCAA Tournament.
The winner of the Gainesville Regional will play the winner of the Louisville Regional, featuring the No. 15 seed and host, Louisville (46-11), in addition to UCLA (37-18), UAB (37-16) and IPFW (32-14).
Stay posted to www.GatorZone.com/softball for up-to-date information regarding the 2013 NCAA Softball Tournament, as well as the Gainesville Regional, in the coming days. For live updates, box scores, stats, pictures, quotes and recaps through the postseason, 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.