No. 1 Florida Gators softball blows past No. 8 Tennessee 7-2 in WCWS opener

By Adam Silverstein
May 28, 2015

No. 1 Florida Gators softball kicked off its 2014 title defense with gusto, routing the No. 8 Tennessee Lady Vols 7-2 in the opening game of the 2015 Women’s College World Series in Oklahoma City.

Florida (56-6) scored in four of six frames with senior right-handed pitcher Lauren Haeger (7.0 IP, H, 2 ER, 4 K) only faltering for a brief moment in the middle a one-hit, shutout performance on Thursday.

Haeger kicked things off for the Gators with a two-out solo home run in the bottom of the first, the 69th career moon shot for the 2015 USA Softball Player of the Year. Florida, however, left the bases loaded behind her and did so again in the next inning.

Freshman first baseman Kayli Kvistad (1/3, HR, 2 RBI, R)f pushed UF ahead 3-0 with a two-run homer in the third, scoring junior third baseman Taylore Fuller (1/2, R, BB, SB) after she walked with one out.

Tennessee (47-16), which had been blanked by Haeger entering the fourth, got right back in the thick of things as Megan Geer teed off with a two-run shot, ending Haeger’s shutout streak at 33 consecutive innings (32 straight in 2015 NCAA Tournament play).

With Florida suddenly only leading by a single run, the Gators focused on increasing their advantage. A two-out infield smack by junior center fielder Kirsti Merritt (1/4, SB) was ruled an error but nevertheless scored Haeger (2/2, HR, RBI, 2 R, BB), who was on second after a single and wild pitch. Merritt then stole second, but when the throw from the Lady Vols’ catcher bounced off her helmet, senior designated player Bailey Castro ran home from third put UF up 5-2.

Tennessee threatened in the top of the fifth, but Fuller and senior shortstop Katie Medina linked up for a 3-6-3 frame-ending double play that kept Florida on top with three defensive outs to go.

In the Gators’ last offensive frame, junior second baseman Kelsey Stewart (2/4, R, SB) led things off with a single, advanced to second on a ground out, stole third and eventually crossed the plate as senior pinch runner Jessica Damico – replacing Haeger, who was hit by a pitch – stole second and moved to third on a fielding error. Castro (0/1, R, BB) bunted on the very next pitch with a throwing error from the Lady Vols’ catcher sending Damico (0/0, R, SB) around to score. UF led 7-2 at the end of the sixth but headed into its dugout with the bases loaded for the third time on Thursday.

Florida advances into the winner’s bracket and will take No. 5 LSU on Friday at 7 p.m. on ESPN2.

Check out the top half of the bracket:

One Comment

  1. Timmy T says:

    Great team right there! Go Gators!