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Florida's Katie Medina goes head first into third base during UF's seven-run fourth inning Saturday.

Saturday May 24, 2014Gators Put It All Together in Game 1 Rout of Huskies

Florida's Katie Medina goes head first into third base during UF's seven-run fourth inning Saturday.

Chris Harry
By Chris Harry
GatorZone.com Senior Writer

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Bailey Castro has some pop in her bat. She had seven homers during the regular season, a pretty good number for just 108 trips to the plate.

So the Florida junior outfielder stepped into the box during the fourth inning of Saturday’s NCAA Super Regional against eighth-ranked Washington with the bases loaded and a chance to blow the game wide open.

That’s when Castro looked down the third base line and saw Coach Tim Walton give the sign.

Suicide squeeze.

“I was pumped,” Castro said. “This is Super Regionals. You have to score.”

Castro buntCastro (left) laid down a dandy in front of the pitcher, with Stephanie Tofft charging from third and sliding home just ahead of the play at the plate. For the Gators, it was another big moment in a very big inning -- seven runs worth -- on the way to a 9-0 NCAA Super Regional demolition of the Huskies at Pressly Stadium.

Now, UF needs to win one of two games Sunday to advance to the Women’s College World Series in Oklahoma City for the second straight season and sixth time in the last seven years.

To get there, Walton will pull out all stops. In fact, Friday night he texted his assistants and asked them to remind him not to forget about the squeeze, if circumstances dictated as much. He’d seen too many postseason situations the last few years when the Gators got runners to third and left them there.

Wasn’t the case in Game 1.

“The tempo we were playing -- taking walks, getting hits, scoring runs -- was huge,” Walton said. “But it all starts in the circle.”

For those keeping score at home, the Gators (49-11) have now outscored four opponents in four NCAA games by an aggregate count of 38-0. Obviously, that speaks volumes about the Florida pitching and defense, both of which were terrific again against the Huskies (36-14). Senior ace Hannah Rogers shook off some first-inning trouble after a pair of walks and was masterful from there.

But this wasn’t Florida A&M or Stetson or UCF, the three next-tier teams that made up last weekend’s regional field. No, this was a one-sided win against a powerhouse program and the outcome had as much to do with what UF did on offense as its pitching and defense.

The Gators attacked both Huskies pitchers, Kaitlin Inglesby and Bryana Walker, and made them work on a sweltering, 91-degree day. They swung at first pitches. They drew seven walks. They got a hit batter. They got five hits and three RBI from the 8-9 hitters.

“We were probably as aggressive [at the plate] as we’ve been,” Walton said.

The Huskies came in having won six straight, 12 of the last 13, and with a string of 22 consecutive scoreless innings after shutting out Iona, Brigham Young and Northwestern by a combined 26-0 during last weekend’s regional at Seattle.

The tenor of this game was not something they were used to.

“We didn’t play our best game and Florida took advantage of all of our mistakes,” Washington coach Heather Tarr said. “It’s too bad we couldn’t give them a better game.”

Munro UW’s shutout run ended in the second inning, courtesy of the bottom of the Florida order. Catcher Aubree Munro (right), the No. 8 hitter, lashed a two-out double down the third-base line to score Castro from second for a 1-0 lead.

"As 8-9 hitters, we talk about turning the lineup over," Munro said.

In the second, Castro was again in the middle of the action. She drew a two-out walk with the bases loaded to push the Gators ahead 2-0.

UF sent 12 batters to the plate in the fourth, with shortstop Katie Medina, the No. 9 hitter who started the day with .216 average, connecting on both a double and single in the inning. Her double came after she couldn't get a bunt down in fair territory. 

But she managed -- as Munro said -- to turn the lineup over. The Gators, in turn, managed to hand Washington its most decisive defeat of the season.

It made for a hot (literally and figuratively) Saturday for the home crowd, but the home team’s work is only half done, as the Huskies pointed out.

“It’s a race to two [wins], not to one,” Inglesby said.

The Gators understand that.

“I don’t need to challenge them to stay focused. They know what to do,” Walton said. “They’re almost professional in some ways like that. Not in all ways, but in some ways. They get it.”

And they want it.

"Our goal is to get back to OKC," Castro said. "We'll do whatever it takes to get there."

 

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