Perfect through 5.1 innings, Florida Gators senior right-handed pitcher Lauren Haeger mowed down the Kentucky Wildcats and led her team to a 7-0 victory on Saturday afternoon in the first game of Super Regional action at Pressly Softball Stadium in Gainesville, Florida.
Haeger (7.0 IP, 2 H, 6 K) retired the first 16 batters she faced before giving up a hit in the top half of the sixth inning. She responded with a solo home run to open the bottom frame, which was quickly complemented by a two-run shot from junior center fielder Kirsti Merritt (2/2, HR, 2 RBI, BB) that pushed the No. 1 Gators ahead 7-0.
The rest of Florida’s scoring came in the bottom of the first. The Gators had two on with no outs only to see Haeger and senior designated player Bailey Castro (0/2) strike out. Merritt then walked, loading the bases. Kelsey Stewart (1/3, R) scored from third when junior third baseman Taylore Fuller (0/1, RBI, R, BB) was hit with a pitch, putting UF ahead 1-0 and bringing freshman first baseman Kayli Kvistad to the plate.
Kvistad looked to be out at first, ending the inning on an infield grounder, and players from both sides began running off the field until the home plate umpire stopped the action and called everyone back to the diamond, noting the ball was actually fouled off Kvistad’s foot. Kvistad (1/2, 3 RBI) took advantage of the opportunity, smacking a three-run double down the right field line, clearing the bases and spotting Florida an early 4-0 advantage.
The Gators did not score again until their two homers in the bottom of the sixth. Haeger has now thrown 22.2 consecutive scoreless innings against the Wildcats.
Florida and Kentucky will square off in the second game of the Super Regional on Sunday at noon. The game will air live on ESPN. Should a rubber match be needed, it would start at 3 p.m. Sunday and also be aired by the network.
UF is looking to advance to the Women’s College World Series for the third straight season and seventh time in the last eight years.