Wednesday April 23, 2014Win Streak Reaches 10 as Florida Defeats In-State Rival USF, 17-1
Kirsti Merritt went 3-for-3 with a home run and five RBI on Wednesday.
The No. 3/5 Gator Softball team defeated USF 17-1 (5 innings) on Wednesday (April 23). Senior right-hander Hannah Rogers (Lake Wales, Fla.) allowed one earned run on two hits over five innings, with three walks and four strikeouts to improve to 21-6 on the season. The Orange and Blue (41-8) won its tenth consecutive game overall, and its sixth straight against the Bulls (33-14).
USF opened the scoring with a solo home run to center field in the top of the first, but it was all Florida from that point. The Gators responded with a leadoff single up the middle by Kelsey Stewart (Wichita, Kan.), who later came home on a sacrifice foulout by Lauren Haeger (Peoria, Ariz.). Senior Stephanie Tofft (Lincoln, Calif.) reached on a fielder’s choice, then stole second before giving Florida a 2-1 lead when she scored on an RBI single by Briana Little (Middleburg, Fla.).
Rogers allowed a one-out walk in the second, but stranded the runner at first. The Gators offense erupted for 11 runs in the bottom of the inning, all with two outs. Following a flyout and a groundout, Stewart lined single to right to set up a two-run home run from Kirsti Merritt (Lake Panasoffkee, Fla.) that extended the Gators lead to 4-1. Following walks to Tofft and Bailey Castro (Pembroke Pines, Fla.) and a single by Haeger, Little and Taylore Fuller (Trenton, Fla.) drove in runs when they were hit by pitches with the bases loaded. The UF rally continued on Aubree Munro’s (Brea, Calif.) RBI single to left before Kathlyn Medina (Downey, Calif.) drove a two-run single to right that pushed Florida’s advantage to 9-1. Stewart then drove in the catcher with a single to short, advancing to second on a throwing error. Merritt followed with a double that plated the two middle infielders, and the outfielder came home on Tofft’s base hit to left. Haeger drove a ball deep to center, but USF’s center fielder brought it back to end the inning.
The Bulls drew a one-out walk in the third, but Rogers got a strikeout and a groundout to end the top of the inning. Castro led off the bottom of the frame with a solo home run to left, raising the Florida lead to 14-1. Little walked and Fuller singled to short to bring up Munro, who drove in Little with a double. An RBI groundout by Stewart scored Fuller from third before Merritt plated the catcher with a single to center.
USF started the fourth with a single and a walk, but Rogers got two popouts and a strikeout to finish the inning. Haeger singled to start the bottom of the fourth, and the Gators had two additional baserunners in the inning, but none were able to score. Rogers retired the Bulls in order in the fifth, finishing the game with a strikeout to seal the 17-1 Florida win.
· The Gators completed the nonconference portion of the regular season with a 30-1 record.
· The Orange and Blue improved to 7-1 this season against opponents from the state of Florida.
· In its last two night games (Saturday and tonight), UF has outscored its opponents 34-5, while out-hitting Texas A&M and USF 31-8.
· Every starter for Florida had at least one hit, and nine scored and drove in at least one run.
· The Gators sent 15 batters to the plate in the second inning.
· The loss was USF’s worst defeat in program history. (Previous: 12-0, three times; last: Feb. 13, 2011 vs. Florida in Clearwater.)
· Stewart’s leadoff single was her team-leading 70th hit of the season. The sophomore entered Wednesday’s game ranked second in the Southeastern Conference in hits.
· The sophomore recorded her 20th multi-hit contest, most on the squad.
· Merritt’s home run was her UF-best fourth at home this season.
· Medina has two multi-RBI games in the last three contests; before Saturday, she had one multi-RBI game in 30 appearances.
· Little’s third-inning walk was the Gators’ 250th free pass of the season; Florida pitchers have walked only 110 batters on the year.
· Florida hitters were hit by two pitches tonight, both driving in runs; Florida has 62 HBPs this season, while Gator pitchers have hit just 23 batters.
· USF’s first-inning home run was the first home allowed by Rogers in Gainesville since March 23, a span of five games.
Head Coach Tim Walton
On the offensive production from the entire lineup:
“They’ve all been working hard. I give them credit. They really fed off each other, and I’m impressed with our ability to work and be coachable. We’re hitting balls to right field, to left field, up the middle; we’re hitting deep fly balls. We’re doing so many little things well. I’m proud of the way we come to the yard and try to execute.”
On Florida only losing one nonconference game this season:
“That’s the beauty of having depth and good players. Everybody comes to work every single day and brings their ‘A’ game. We brought our ‘A’ game a lot. I thought our schedule was pretty good in nonconference. I thought we played a good, solid schedule. We played some good teams, and that helps us to get prepared for what we do in the SEC.”
On the game plan for the weekend series against Missouri:
“It starts for us in the circle. We’ll have to be good with Lauren, Hannah and Delanie [Gourley]. We need them to pitch well and do the little things well in the circle. That really propels our offense and gives us a good chance to win ballgames.”
Sophomore CF Kirsti Merritt
On her home run in the second that started the 11-run inning for the Gators:
“I just knew that it was a 2-0 count, and I was just looking for something that was going to be my pitch. That’s the pitch that I want to hit over the fence, so that’s what I was looking for.”
On what it was like to see the team build off of her homer:
“It was amazing. We feed off each other every time. To do it with two outs was kind of cool. We haven’t done that before—score 11 runs with two outs.”
Sophomore C Aubree Munro
On being part of the team’s 11-run second inning with two outs on the board:
“It’s awesome. Hitting is contagious. We say it every day. It’s contagious. It sounds cliché at this point, but it really is. You start seeing people hit the ball like that off of the wall, balls that just fall in—you see it happening, and you want to be a part of it. So it’s fun going around the lineup like that. It’s a good time. It’s what softball’s about.”
On what it says about the team to go on the run with two outs:
“It just says a lot about our hitters, just going in there and getting our hacks in. At this point in the season it’s late. By the end of the game I’m pretty sure everybody got an at-bat that’s not injured a little bit. I think that just says a lot about our hitters and the work we’re putting in on the side and at practice every day. Our hitters are being aggressive in counts and staying back and just working the count a lot.”
Senior RHP Hannah Rogers
On what it was like watching the 11-run second inning from the dugout:
“[I was] just having fun. If your team can score that many runs, it just allows you to go out and pitch and have fun too. [You can] work on things too that maybe you don’t get to work on so much in the games and just throw different pitches.”
On staying fresh after pitching the bulk of the last few games:
“[I’ve been] getting with the trainer and doing lots of treatment. We worked hard in the offseason, and now it’s just paying off. It’s helping our bodies, and now we’re able to go for long periods of time and able to push our bodies. It’s just a mental thing.”
FOLLOW THE GATORS
The Gators open their final home series of the regular season Friday (April 25), when they host No. 15/17 Missouri. First pitch from Katie Seashole Pressly Softball Stadium is scheduled for 6 p.m. ET. GatorVision will have live video for subscribers. Radio coverage will be provided on WGGG (1230-AM), with Adam Schick and former Gator All-American Megan Bush on the call. In addition, fans can access Gametracker on the GatorZone.com schedule page to view live stats.