Saturday May 18, 2013No. 2 Gators Down Sunshine State Rival USF, 11-1, to Advance to NCAA Gainesville Regional Championship
Junior ace Hannah Rogers (Lake Wales, Fla.) tossed a complete-game one-hitter, sophomore designated player Lauren Haeger (Peoria, Ariz.) was 2-for-2, knocking in a career high and school-record tying seven RBI, and freshman Taylore Fuller (Trenton, Fla.) put on a perfect 2-for-2 display as the No. 2 Gator softball squad (54-7) downed No. USF, 11-1, in five innings to advance to the NCAA Softball Gainesville Regional Championship Sunday at 1 p.m.
Rogers (5.0 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 4 BB, 6 K) added her 30th W of the season, improving to 30-5 in the circle for the Orange and Blue with her first complete-game one-hitter this season, fifth of her career.
With Hampton eliminated from the NCAA Tournament after a 3-0 loss to Georgia Southern in the second game of the day Saturday, the Gators will play the winner of Saturday evening’s elimination game between Georgia Southern and USF.
Florida put up three runs in the first, five in the second and three in the third to rout the Bulls, using five extra-base hits, including a double and homer each from Haeger and Fuller. Haeger chalked up her team-best 10th game-winning RBI in the bottom of the first with a three-run shot to left center before roping a bases loaded – and bases-clearing – double to straight-away center in the second inning. The second-year Gator was then pegged with a bases-loaded Erica Nunn offering in the third for her seventh RBI of the tilt. Haeger is closing in on several Florida single-season records, just shy of the homers (22) and RBI (80) single-season records with 18 and 70, respectively.
The Gators had the leadoff runner on in each inning Saturday and knocked two bombs off USF ace Sara Nevins, who had given up just four homers this year – one of them to Haeger in the February meeting between the Gators and Bulls.
Two long balls accounted for the Gators’ first four runs against the Bulls, as Haeger went yard with a three-run shot in the bottom of the initial stanza to erase a 1-0 USF lead and bring the Orange and Blue ahead, 3-1. UF’s comeback marked the Gators’ 20th come-from-behind of the season and the win over a top-25 team was Florida’s 15th (15-4, .789).
Fuller knocked her second solo shot in as many days – fourth this season – over the Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium scoreboard in left center to add to Florida’s lead in the home half of the second for a 4-1 advantage, and in the same frame, Haeger sent a three-RBI laser to straight-away center for the 7-1 Florida lead, her 12th double of the season. Senior Kelsey Horton (Valrico, Fla.) kept Florida rolling, dropping a RBI double in left field for the 8-1 Gator lead after a five-run, five-hit splurge for UF in the second.
After her solo blast in the second, Fuller kicked off the third with her two-bagger, one of Florida’s nine hits on the day. Freshman Kelsey Stewart (Wichita, Kan.) (2-for-4) and Horton (2-for-3) joined Haeger and Fuller in the two hits club, while freshman Kirsti Merritt (Lake Panasoffkee, Fla.) was 1-for-3 on the day for the Orange and Blue to round out UF’s hitting offensive efforts.
UF didn’t back down, lacing the scoreboard with another three spot in the bottom of the third, first capitalizing on a USF defensive miscue before a Haeger bases-loaded hit-by-pitch and Schwarz bases-loaded walk plated UF’s final three runs of the contest.
The Bulls lone run in the tilt came unearned in the top of the first, while a Kenshyra Jackson high bouncer back to Rogers in the circle in the top of the third counted as USF’s only hit of the game. Nevins (1.1 IP, 6 H, 7 ER, 0 BB, 2 K) shouldered the loss for the Bulls to move to 26-8 on the season.
Florida improved to 20-6 (.769) in NCAA Regional play under head coach Tim Walton with Saturday’s victory, making the Orange and Blue 45-29 (.608) all-time in the NCAA Tournament. UF’s 11 runs against USF tied for second-most in a Regional under Walton, as the Gators put up 12 against Texas A&M in 2009 and 11 against UCLA in 2011.
Visit Florida’s 2013 NCAA Softball Gainesville Regional Central for ALL information about this weekend’s events, including game times, scores, notes, regional and NCAA Tournament brackets, ticket information, parking, participating team information, quotes and box scores from all of the action in Gainesville.
Florida Head Coach Tim Walton
“I’m really proud of the way our team played, proud that we overcame the first inning adversity on defense, found a way to make plays and get out of it. Hannah did a good job – I’m just really happy with our offense being able to rebound from that against, not only a great pitcher, but a great pitching staff that doesn’t give up a whole lot of runs. It just says a lot about the focus and determination that I thought we had today. Really proud of our players and proud of the way they represented us today. Now there is a dog fight on our hands with whoever wins coming out of the loser’s side and we will be ready to play tomorrow.”
On Hannah’s pitching today
“That is Hannah’s motive. She is not going to give you a pitch over the plate and I thought she was trying to carve the corners. Obviously hit two batters, but she is always one pitch away. I thought she made a really, really good play to field that backhand play. Obviously Taylore Fuller wasn’t able to get the lane cleared and threw the ball into the runner as opposed to inside but still almost had a great play by Taylor Schwarz to keep the double play alive. It is what it is. She throws a one hitter and walks three or four and hit two. At the end of the day it is still a really good job by Hannah but it would be nice to come in 0-0 in the bottom of the first when you play the caliber of a pitcher like Sara Nevins.”
Florida Sophomore DP Lauren Haeger
On her three-run home run
“That whole at bat I was fighting, 3-2. I knew they were trying to walk me and I knew they were coming right at me. She threw a curve ball in and I fouled a couple off and got my timing just right.”
On knocking out the pitcher in less than two innings
“I have seen her a bunch of times. I really have to get my timing right when I am hitting against her. It was nice that they loaded the bases and they were going right at me again. I just put my foot down and wanted to be aggressive against a new pitcher, just see my pitch and hit it – try to take it up the middle hard.”
Florida Freshman C Taylore Fuller
On back-to- back days of home runs
“I’ve been seeing the ball really well. My timing is finally coming together for me. Just being able to produce for my team finally feels really good and they get really excited for me. We all have really good chemistry.”
On having nerves coming into the postseason
“I really had nothing to lose. They are sort of there because it is postseason, but I go in there playing hard.”