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

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.

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2015 Florida softball primer: Can the Gators repeat after the program’s first championship?

By Mike Brandes – OnlyGators.com Contributor

No. 1 Florida Gators softball is poised to defend its crown following a 2014 campaign that saw the team go 55-12 with that last victory resulting in the program’s first National Championship. The Gators have already come out of the gate strong, sweeping the USF Softball Classic and routing Jacksonville on Wednesday, amassing a 6-0 record while outscoring opponents 62-7

Florida was the preseason favorite to with the Southeastern Conference title, having received 11 of 13 first-place votes from the league’s coaches, after failing to win either the regular season or tournament championship a year ago.

Head coach Tim Walton, who is now 498-114 (.813) six games into his 10th season, is confident in his roster. “We’ve got a good group, as deep a group as we’ve had,” he said. Walton no doubt hopes to roll this confidence into a return trip to Oklahoma City and ultimately a second national title in as many seasons.

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Florida softball blasts Washington 8-0 to advance to Women’s College World Series

By Jordan McPherson and Adam Silverstein

Sophomore center fielder Kirsti Merritt knew her team was tired of waiting.

With No. 5 Florida Gators softball leading the No. 12 Washington Huskies 5-0 in the fifth inning of a rubber match in the Gainesville Super Regional, Merritt ended the contest in one motion when she blasted a three-run homer to meet the run rule and send Florida to the Women’s College World Series for the sixth time in seven seasons.

Outscoring opponents 28-0 thus far in 2014 NCAA Tournament play after run-ruling Washington 9-0 on Saturday, UF dropped game two 4-3 on Sunday but fought against both UW and the elements to win third contest after five hours and 32 minutes.

Gators senior right-handed pitcher Hannah Rogers (5.0 IP, 1 H, 3 BB, 6 K) impressed by tossing a complete-game shutout to bring her record to 26-8 on the season. She has now gone 21 consecutive innings — 16 in NCAA play, 10 in the Super Regionals — without surrendering a single run.

Just as it had in each of the five NCAA contests before it, Florida (50-12) struck first in game three against Washington (37-15).

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No. 2 Florida softball eliminates No. 14 Nebraska from WCWS with 9-8 win in 15-inning thriller

The fourth-longest game ever played at the Women’s College World Series ended in celebration for No. 2 Florida Gators softball, which needed 15 innings and more than five hours to prevail 9-8 and eliminate the No. 14 Nebraska Cornhuskers from the 2013 NCAA Tournament. Florida (58-8) lost two separate leads on Saturday before rallying to score two runs in the top of the 15th, exactly the number it needed to take down Nebraska (45-16) and continue its storybook season.

The Gators flashed offense by loading the bases in the third but did not score until the fifth, when UF posted all six of the runs it plated during regulation. An incredible bottom of the seventh kept the Cornhuskers in the game, and a run by each team in the 10th inning extended Saturday’s contest even further.

Junior right-handed pitcher Hannah Rogers (8.0 IP, 11 H, 7 R [6 ER], 3 BB, K) – two days after lasting less than an inning in Florida’s WCWS opener – showed a renewed focus for the first six innings but unraveled in the final frame of regulation. She returned in the 15th and gave up another run but held on for the save. Sophomore RHP Lauren Haeger (7.0 IP, 3 H, ER, 4 BB, 4 K) was terrific in innings 8-14, keeping the Gators in the contest and picking up the victory.

Continue Reading » No. 2 Florida softball eliminates No. 14 Nebraska from WCWS with 9-8 win in 15-inning thriller

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Tennessee blasts Florida 9-2 in WCWS opener

No. 2 Florida Gators softball (57-8) is now one loss away from elimination in the Women’s College World Series portion of the 2013 NCAA Tournament after the No. 7 Tennessee Volunteers (50-10) took it to the home team early and often, pulling away for a dominant 9-2 victory in Thursday’s opening-round game.

Florida, which edged Tennessee two games to one during a regular-season series that consisted of three-straight extra-inning affairs, struggled with its pitching in the early going and was never able to recover.

Junior right-handed pitcher Hannah Rogers got the start for the Gators but immediately loaded the bases as she had trouble finding the strike zone. Rogers (0.1 IP, H, 3 ER, 3 BB) walked two and gave up a single to load the bases before walking home the Volunteers’ first run of the game and putting her team in a 1-0 hole.

Florida head coach Tim Walton pulled Rogers for sophomore Lauren Haeger, who gave up a two-run double to Melissa Brown that fronted Tennessee a 3-0 lead.

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FOUR BITS: swimming, WNIT, softball, lacrosse

1 » The Florida Gators swimming program won its second national title of the season on Friday when the men’s 800 Meter Freestyle Relay team took down the competition at the 2013 NCAA Swimming and Diving Championships in Indianapolis, IN. Freshman Pawel Werner, redshirt junior Sebastien Rousseau, junior Marcin Cieslak and sophomore Dan Wallace swam the race in a school-record time of 6:13.27 to bring home the title for the second time in the last three seasons. A week earlier on March 22, junior Elizabeth Beisel captured the NCAA title in the 400 Meter Individual Medley in 4:00.49. It was her second individual national title (first in the event) as she previously won the 200 Meter Backstroke in 2012. The Gators men’s and women’s swimming programs each finished in sixth place overall.

2 » Florida women’s basketball certainly did not have a successful regular season, but head coach Amanda Butler’s squad has been playing with renewed intensity in the 2013 Women’s NIT and advanced to the Final Four of the event over the weekend with an 85-80 victory over the James Madison Dukes (25-11) in Harrisonburg, VA. The Gators (22-14), which trailed by one with 1:06 to play, jumped ahead on a jumper by freshman guard January Miller with 53 seconds remaining and never lost the lead again. Junior G Jaterra Bonds hit four free throws down the stretch to extend Florida’s lead and help the team move on in the tournament. Freshman forward Sidney Moss led the way for UF with a game-high 27 points, and Bonds added 20 of her own including the game-clinching free throws.

Florida is in the semifinals of a postseason tournament for just the second time in program history (first since 2000) and are two victories away from their first-ever title. The Gators will next take on Drexel on April 3 at 7 p.m. in Philadelphia, PA.

3 » No. 3 Florida softball (35-3, 10-2 SEC) concluded the month of March on Sunday by picking up a road series win over the Ole Miss Rebels (19-21, 1-11 SEC) in Oxford, MS and extending their winning streak to nine games. Junior right-handed pitcher Hannah Rogers (20-2) threw a pair of complete games on Friday and Sunday morning, giving up six hits and one earned run while striking out 11. Rogers also earned her second save of the season in the second half of Sunday’s double-header, pitching three innings in relief of sophomore RHP Alyssa Bache (6-0). The Gators’ hitting was well-rounded throughout the weekend with junior third baseman Stephanie Tofft, senior right fielder Kelsey Horton, sophomore left fielder Briana Little, freshman first baseman Taylor Schwarz and sophomore second baseman Jessica Damico reach registering at least one multi-RBI outing.

4 » No. 2 Florida lacrosse (13-1, 1-1 ALC) is undefeated no longer as it suffered a tough upset loss at the hands of the No. 9 Penn State Nittany Lions (7-3, 2-0 ALC) while on the road in State College, PA. The Gators fell 16-11 on Saturday as the Nittany Lions battled back from a three-goal first-half deficit to outscore the visitors 10-2 in the second half and pull off the victory. Florida will close out the regular season in April and next takes on Johns Hopkins on April 6 at noon in Gainesville, FL.

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One night, two late game-winners for Gators

Florida women’s basketball was facing elimination from the 2013 Women’s NIT while Gators softball was about to fall to a heated rival when a late-game swish of the net and an extra-inning crack of the bat turned the fortunes of the respective teams in a pair of nail-biter situations Wednesday evening.

Though Florida women’s basketball did not receive an invitation to the NCAA Tournament, the Gators have been fighting for their lives on the road. After taking down Florida International 75-68 in first-round action last Thursday, UF earned a dominant 85-53 victory over Winthrop on Monday to advance to the WNIT round of 16.

On Wednesday, the Gators (21-14) took on the Charlotte 49ers (26-6) and were engaged in an absolute dogfight. Florida coughed up its lead with less than six minutes to play and found itself in a four-point hole with possession and 1:05 remaining.

Just 13 seconds into the possession, freshman guard January Miller drained a three-pointer with 52 seconds left to cut the Gators’ deficit to one. On the ensuing possession, freshman forward Christin Mercer swiped the ball from Charlotte’s Ny Hammonds and junior G Jaterra Bonds got fouled on a shot attempt.

At the line with a chance to go ahead by a point with 20 seconds remaining, Bonds made the first free throw but missed the second. Suddenly, senior F Jennifer George swooped in for the rebound and head coach Amanda Butler called a 30-second timeout with 15.6 seconds remaining.

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Michelle Moultrie wins SEC Player of the Year, Florida softball places seven on All-SEC teams

The Southeastern Conference released its annual awards for the sport of softball on Wednesday, and the Florida Gators came away with a prestigious individual award along with nine total placements (seven players) on the various All-SEC teams.

Senior outfielder Michelle Moultrie became the second-straight and fourth Florida player all-time to be named SEC Player of the Year (Kelsey Bruder won the award in 2011). Underrated coming out of high school, Moultrie has been one of the most consistent, reliable and game-changing players that the Gators have seen.

She leads the SEC in batting average (.395) and fielding percentage (1.000) and tops Florida’s roster in runs scored (58), total bases (108), slugging percentage (.667), on-base percentage (.495) and steals (21). Moultrie also has 10 homers, 29 RBIs and 24 walks so far in her senior campaign.

First Team All-SEC
CF Michelle Moultrie (senior)

Second Team All-SEC
P Hannah Rogers (sophomore)
C Kelsey Horton (junior)

Freshman All-SEC Team
P Alyssa Bache (freshman)
P/DH Lauren Haeger (freshman)
3B Sami Fagan (freshman)
OF Jessica Damico (freshman)

SEC All-Defensive Team
P Hannah Rogers (sophomore)
CF Michelle Moultrie (senior)

Photo Credit: Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press

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