Sunday May 26, 2013Oklahoma City Bound: Florida Softball Headed to WCWS for Fifth Time in Last Six Years
WATCH: Postgame Press Conference (Walton, Horton, Schwarz, Stewart)
Florida freshman first baseman Taylor Schwarz (Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.) roped a two-out RBI double off the wall in left center in the top of the fourth, and that’s the only run the No. 2 Gator softball squad would need in a 1-0 victory Sunday over UAB in the Gainesville Super Regional to punch a ticket to Oklahoma City for the fifth time in program history (2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2013).
In a stellar defensive game for the Gators behind junior ace Hannah Rogers’ (Lake Wales, Fla.) performance in the circle, freshman Kelsey Stewart (Wichita, Kan.) showed her range and defensive skills at second on a UAB ball hit up the middle that had Blazer senior pinch runner Hailey Glynn – representing the game-tying run – scampering home from second with two outs in the bottom of the seventh. Stewart laid out, snagged the ball in the dirt by second base, composed herself and controlled the ball enough to gun home from her knees to freshman catcher Aubree Munro (Brea, Calif.) at the plate for the third and final out in dramatic fashion.
A crowd of 1,679 came out to Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium Sunday to watch the Gators solidify their spot in Oklahoma City, as the Orange and Blue (57-7) are WCWS bound for the fifth time in the last six years. UF last appeared in OKC in 2011, as the Gators played for a national championship that year. Florida defeated the UAB Blazers (40-19), 4-3, in walk-off fashion Saturday before holding onto a 1-0 differential through three innings Sunday for the sweep.
The Gators will meet familiar league foe Tennessee Thursday at 2:30 p.m. ET on ESPN2 in WCWS opening-round action at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium. The Gators and Lady Vols have never met in the NCAA Tournament, but have met nine times in the SEC Tournament for a 5-4 all-time record in postseason play against UT, including 4-1 under head coach Tim Walton. Florida edged out Tennessee for the SEC regular-season title in 2013, while also taking two-of-three from the Lady Vols in Gainesville during the regular-season set. The last four meetings between Florida and Tennessee have all gone eight innings. Florida leads the all-time history of the series, 43-20, including a 4-3 record on neutral ground. Under Walton, UF is 21-7 against the Lady Vols.
Rogers tossed a gem Sunday (7.0 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 7K), her 11th shutout of the year, to improve to 33-5 in the circle for the Orange and Blue with her 97th career victory. Her seven Ks tied for second-most in NCAA Tournament play, as she’s previously fanned nine batters twice, once each in 2011 and 2012 Regionals play. Rogers struck out the side in the bottom of the first, retiring five of the first batters she faced via strikeout. The two-time All-American righty also sat the side down in the fifth after the Gators grabbed the lead in the top of the fourth as the designated visitors Sunday.
Florida used base hits from birthday girl and starting freshman catcher Taylore Fuller (Trenton, Fla.), sophomore designated player Lauren Haeger (Peoria, Ariz.), Schwarz and junior third baseman Stephanie Tofft (Lincoln, Calif.), as Fuller and Tofft led off the third and sixth innings with base hits for the Orange and Blue, Tofft her league-leading 18th double and second two-bagger of the game for UF.
The Gators faced a tough Blazers squad, including pitching duo Lauren Webster (4.0 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 4 K), who earned the decision and moved to 12-5 on the season, and Lannah Campbell in relief (3.0 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 4 K).
Florida posted its 20th shutout of the season Sunday after chalking up its 21st come-from-behind victory in Saturday’s Super Regional Opener.
Stay posted to www.GatorZone.com/softball in the coming days for all information as the 2013 Women’s College World Series approaches, follow the Gators on Twitter and visit the team on Facebook for all the latest on Gator softball. For broadcast and television information as it’s released, visit the UF softball schedule page.
· The Orange and Blue now own a 47-29 (.618) all-time record in the NCAA Tournament, including a 42-19 (.689) record under eighth year head coach Tim Walton
· The Gators are making their the trip to OKS for their fifth-ever Women’s College World Series, marking Florida’s fifth in the last six years, including an unprecedented four straight from 2008-11, as the Gators played for the national championship in 2009 (Washington) and 2011 (Arizona State)
· UF is now 11-2 (.846) all-time in Super Regional play
· The Gators are undefeated at home in Super Regional action: 10-0
· Florida is now 33-5 (.868) versus the original 2013 Tourney Field (64) and played 15 NCAA Tourney teams in the regular season
· Florida is now 12-3 (.800) this season against teams in Supers
· Florida is ranked No. 2 in the country, has 21 come-from-behind wins this season and the Gators are 5-2 in extra innings, 16-4 (.800) against top-25 opponents. The Orange and Blue own 15 run-rules and 20 shutouts this season, 11 of them belonging to Rogers
· UF has now been a top five national seed in the NCAA Tournament each of the past six years, three as a top-three seed
· The Gators have had just three errors in their last 13 outings
· Notably, Haeger is just four home runs away from the school record (22), along with 10 RBI away from the Gators’ single-season record (80)
· Rogers owns 97 career wins at Florida in the circle and would be the second pitcher in Gator history to hit the 100-win mark
“First off, congratulations to UAB on a record-setting season they had. They are a great team and, obviously, a great clutch hitting team. They have great pitching. That’s one of the best staffs we’ve seen all year long. I really like their coach’s aggressive style. I really thought they came in and stuck to their game plan and really got after it. I’m proud of our team and proud of our fans for being there for us throughout the whole weekend again like they always are. It’s nice to come up here to these press conferences and look up and see new faces every single time I come up here and that just tells you the story of our team. Everybody is contributing to our team through the wins and the losses. We’ve just done a good job of believing in each other and our practices have been methodical; sometimes boring because we repeat the same thing over and over again. In the end, I think we were just rewarded for the hard work and the tough practices and preseason we went through with the mental toughness. Just again, really proud of every one of these girls up here. They did a great job for us. What a phenomenal play at the end of the game, but a great clutch hit from (Taylor) Schwarz to get it going for us. In the end, like I said, I’m just really proud. This is a really special moment for me and my family and these players and everybody involved in our program. Just appreciate everybody and all their hard work this season.”
On the last play of the game
“Initially, off the bat, I thought it was going to go up the middle and then I actually thought she over-dove a little. You see how it hit her on the heel of the glove instead of in the pocket. She got a great jump off the bat and knocked it down. I was just hoping she wouldn’t throw the ball to first base because there was no chance of getting her at first. As she came up to her knees, she looked right at the plate and honestly, she threw her out by a lot, but it’s a closer play than it looks like because if she hesitates or does the wrong thing, then they have a run. I’m really proud of her for being heads-up and come looking for that out.”
On if that’s an aggressive play that he would make sending the runner home
“Absolutely. I don’t see anything wrong with that. I wasn’t in the third-base coaching box, so it’s hard for me to know. I’ve had plays end the same way. I’ve had people thrown out at the plate and in the same manner before. I wouldn’t blow it out of proportion just being the magnitude of this type of game. I applaud her effort for trying to find a way to get a run in there. How many hits is Hannah (Rogers) going to give up in a row? To be honest, it forced her to make a perfect play and, obviously, we did.”
On what it feels like taking this year’s team to the Women’s College World Series
“It’s a totally different feeling. It’s a completely different feeling. With Kelsey Bruder being on our staff, we just talked about how she is so happy for these players because they relish these a little different than her teams did. At times, like I said, we’re an underdog. Even though we’re the Florida Gators, we played this season as an underdog. We’ve come in kind of unnoticed and played well. I’m really proud of our team for being able to do that. The other teams have always been the number one seed. One year, we had a target on our back coming out after playing the year before. At the end of the day, I’m really proud. It’s a completely different feeling. It’s a very special feeling for these young players because they don’t understand what they have accomplished in such a short period of time. I’m glad no one has told them what they have accomplished. I’m glad they just keep playing softball. But, this is a huge accomplishment. This program has been around at Florida for 17 years and we’ve been to the Women’s College World Series only five times. It tells you how hard it is to do. For that to be done by this group of kids that have never played college softball before, or at least half of them, I’m really proud of them and they way they handled themselves on and off the field and really pulled together very well.”
On why he went with Aubree Munro at catcher in the last inning instead of Taylore Fuller
“I went with my defensive catcher. Taylore Fuller has been offensive for us all year long, obviously, when you look at the offense she’s put up for us. I went with Aubree for two reasons: One, Aubree is a special kid. I recruited her to be on the field and I wanted her to have an opportunity to get in this game too. We need her to be successful long term for us. Short term, Taylore Fuller is playing her butt off and hitting the ball well and I’m going to keep playing her. Long term, Aubree Munro needs to be a part of what we’re doing too. You can’t do it with one catcher. You’re one foul tip away from having to go with somebody else. I have a lot of confidence in her, but I have a ton of confidence in both of them. Obviously, Taylore Fuller is going to start for us in the first game on Thursday. Again, Aubree needs to play too.”
On pitching and defense setting his team apart
“You have to be good at what you’re good at. For us to know what we’re good at is a strength. We’re really good at pitching and we’re really good on defense. Offensively, we’ve had our struggles all year long compared to what Gator fans are used to. Maybe even compared to what the coaches and players are used to. At the end of the day, we’re really good at pitching and defense. We’re going to continue to try to be really good at it, make all the plays we’re supposed to and then everyone once in a while, make a special one too.”
On if it was frustrating leaving runners on base
“At this point in time, it’d be frustrating if we were sitting here going home at the end of the season, 0-2. But, 2-0, finding a way to get a hit, it’s a tough task to go up there and get a hit. Let alone get a hit in a crucial situation. We have to get better at that, but we had to get better at that in the middle of the year too. We were struggling and doing a couple of the same things. I don’t think it has anything to do with that. It has more to do with really good pitching, hitting quality spots and hitters just not being able to come through with hits.”
On the pitching of Hannah Rogers
“She was really good today. She struck out five of the first six batters. She just really commanded her pitches. She had her inside pitches going well and her outside pitches going well. She changed speeds a couple of times. She actually threw a good 2-1 changeup to their five-hole hitter in that seventh inning. That was a really key pitch. I thought she was really good. And her defense, don’t forget about her defense. She made a lot of really good plays.”
Florida Freshman 2B Kelsey Stewart
On the last play
“Every day in practice we go through ‘game-winners’ and Katie (Medina) and I went up to each other and said ‘game-winners.’ Coach (Walton) always hits balls at us like that in practice. Actually, I never doubted the ball was going to get through, so I was just laying my body out there, trying to get the ball stopped.”
On if she was surprised the runner made the turn from third
“I actually thought she thought I was going to go to one, I would have gone there too. I saw her hit third and keep running, so I just got on my knees and threw the ball.”
On if they talked about going to the Women’s College World Series as a team
“We haven’t talked about it. It has been a forbidden word. We just wanted to take it every inning at a time and every game at a time. Now with the feeling, I’m really excited. It’s really surreal. I have to keep reminding myself, we’re going to the Women’s College World Series. With this team, there is no doubt that I’m really glad I’m going with these 16 girls.”
On what “16 Strong” means to them
“Sixteen strong means to me that it is also a family. From the day we got here, we’ve been through a roller-coaster. From running the three miles to throwing up and having each other’s back this whole time. So, I just really think it’s a family thing through all the roller-coasters, yet we’re still here, 16 strong, and never been stronger.”
Florida Sophomore 1B Taylor Schwarz
On hit to bring in the winning run today
“I just have to give the glory to God and my team because I wouldn’t have been in that position without the support of my team.”
On getting the big hit
“I know we only scored one run but all game we were moving runners, we were getting bunts down, Katie Medina got two bunts down today, that’s huge if you think about it. My hit was just a clutch hit and it happened to be the only run we scored today, but with my team’s help, that’s why I got it done.”
On team chemistry
“I think no matter where we are or what we are doing it’s like a family thing. Ever since we (freshman) first got here, they welcomed us in.”
On what ’16 Strong’ means to her
“When we say (16 strong) to me, It’s just comforting because I know these girls have my back. Sixteen strong is just really bringing us all together and it helps us stay confident in each other and we know that we have each other’s back.”
Florida Senior RF Kelsey Horton
On Kelsey Stewart’s play to end the game
“I think we were just really prepared and we had a lot of confidence in Kelsey. Obviously we didn’t know she was going to round third but she’s just a heads up player and I’m really proud of her for coming up and throwing on her knees like that.”
On advancing to the Women’s College World Series
“I’m just really excited, it’s the biggest stage you can play softball on. It’s just really exciting and I’m so happy I get to experience it with the 16 girls around me.”