Sunday May 18, 2014Florida Defeats UCF, 7-0, to Advance to Super Regional
Kirsti Merritt went 2-for-3 with two RBI to help Florida win the NCAA Gainesville Regional
The University of Florida softball team defeated UCF, 7-0, on Sunday in the final of the NCAA Tournament Gainesville Regional. The Orange and Blue scored in four of the seven innings and shut out their third consecutive opponent, running their record this season against in-state foes to 10-1.
Stephanie Tofft drew a one-out walk in the first to set up a two-run home run by Lauren Haeger that gave the sixth-ranked Gators (48-11) a 2-0 lead. Following free passes by Briana Little and Bailey Castro, Taylor Schwarz reached on a two-out error that allowed Little to come home. Schwarz was thrown out trying to advance to second on the play to end the inning.
Haeger (10-2) took a three-run cushion to the circle, and held the Knights (43-18) scoreless with a flyout and two strikeouts following back-to-back singles. Florida loaded the bases with one out in the second, but was not able to manufacture a run. The Gators’ third-year hurler retired the Knights in order in the home half with two strikeouts and a groundout.
Castro walked to lead off the third, and pinch-runner Justine McLean scored three batters later on Taylore Fuller’s RBI single to increase the UF lead to 4-0. After another 1-2-3 frame from Haeger, Kelsey Stewart doubled to lead off the fourth, advancing to third on Tofft’s flyout before beating the throw home on Haeger’s fielder’s choice.
Holding a 5-0 edge in the bottom of the inning, Haeger allowed a two-out single before ending the fourth with a flyout to left. The Gators started the fifth with a single from Kirsti Merritt and a walk from Schwarz, but both were stranded. The Orange and Blue then left a UCF runner on base in the home half following a two-out single up the middle.
Florida put together a two-out rally in the sixth when Little walked and McLean singled. Both Gators moved up on stolen bases, and Merritt drove them in with a two-run single up the middle. The Orange and Blue used a 6-3 double play to retire the Knights after a one-out base hit to left in the bottom of the inning.
Florida loaded the bases in the top of the seventh, but was unable to push a run across. UCF had a baserunner in the home half thanks to a Gator miscue, but Aubree Munro erased the runner trying to steal second. Two groundouts ended the game and sealed Florida’s seventh trip to the NCAA Super Regionals.
· Florida scored 29 unanswered runs in the regional.
· This is the second time the Gators have thrown three consecutive shutouts in a regional. (Also: 2007 vs. Stetson, 7-0; Georgia Tech, 8-0; Texas, 3-0).
· 2014 marks the second time Florida and UCF have played on the Sunday of a Regional with the Knights needing to win both contests. In 2008, the Gators dropped the first game before winning the second.
· The back-to-back singles UCF had to open the bottom of the first represented the only time this weekend that an opposing runner reached second base. Florida A&M and Stetson failed to have a runner reach second, while UCF did not have a runner advance past first base for the final six innings on Sunday.
· With her first-inning blast, Haeger homered for the third consecutive game; this marks the third time this season the junior has launched a home run in three straight contests. (Also: Feb. 15-16, 19 vs. Cal State Northridge, Minnesota, Jacksonville; Feb. 28-March 1 [DH] vs. Oregon, Fordham, Ohio State.)
· For the three games during the regional, Haeger batted .455 (5x11) with three home runs, nine RBI and two walks.
· Haeger entered the weekend on a six-game RBI drought in NCAA Tournament play; she drove in at least two runs in all three games this weekend.
· The nine RBI ties Haeger’s best three-game span this season; she also drove in nine runs March 1 (DH) and 2.
· The third-year Gator has 16 RBI in the last six games, with multiple RBI in five of those contests. (No RBI May 8 vs. Georgia.)
· Following the two singles in the first, the Peoria, Ariz., native retired 11 consecutive Knights hitters.
· Florida was perfect this weekend on eight stolen-base attempts, while opponents were caught by Munro on all three of their attempts.
FOLLOW THE GATORS
Florida will host No. 12 seed Washington in a Super Regional next weekend. Game 1 of the best-of-three series will begin Saturday at 1 p.m. (all times Eastern) on ESPNU. Game 2 is scheduled for noon on Sunday on ESPN, with Game 3 (if necessary) set to follow at 3 p.m. on ESPN.