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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Florida Gators RHP Lauren Haeger named 2015 USA Softball Player of the Year

Senior right-handed pitcher Lauren Haeger was named the 2015 USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year on Tuesday, making her the first player in Florida Gators softball history to bring home the honor, which has been awarded since 2002.

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Florida Gators softball sweeps Super Regional, will defend title in Women’s College World Series

Senior right-handed pitcher Lauren Haeger was dominant once again for the No. 1 Florida Gators on Sunday, sending her team to a 1-0 win over the Kentucky Wildcats in Super Regional play and to the Women’s College World Series for the third straight season.

Florida swept Kentucky 7-0 and 1-0 at Pressly Softball Stadium in Gainesville, Florida, behind Haeger’s 14.0 shutout innings. The National Player of the Year finalist has now held the Wildcats scoreless in 29.2 consecutive innings.

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Lauren Haeger leads Florida Gators softball to 7-0 rout of Kentucky in Super Regional opener

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.

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Gators softball sweeps Gainesville Regional, No. 1 Florida to host Kentucky in Super Regional

No. 1 Florida Gators softball on Sunday advanced to the Super Regional portion of the 2015 NCAA Tournament, earning a 1-0 eight-inning win over the Florida Atlantic Owls in the final game of the Gainesville Regional.

Senior right-handed pitcher Lauren Haeger was tremendous for the Gators throughout the regional round at Pressly Softball Stadium. Haeger not only threw an eight-inning two-hitter on Sunday in the regional finale, she was also responsible for Florida’s game-winning run, smacking an RBI double with two outs in the top of the eighth.

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Weekend Wrap: Gators swimming wins SEC title, Florida baseball bests Miami, softball undefeated

Winning a league title, earning an important series victory, maintaining a long winning streak and remaining undefeated, Florida Gators athletic programs accomplished plenty over the last weekend. Let’s take a look at all of it in the Weekend Wrap.

Thrice is nice

Florida men’s swimming captured a third-straight Southeastern Conference Championship over the weekend, using three individual event titles won in Auburn, Alabama, to catapult the program to its 36th SEC Championship.

UF (1,314.5) edged Georgia (1,134.5) and Auburn (1,084.0) for the crown with freshman Caeleb Dressel (100-yard butterfly); sophomore Mitch D’Arrigo (500-yard freestyle); and the foursome of senior Dan Wallace, junior Pawel Werner, redshirt sophomore Nicholas Alexiou and D’Arrigo (800-yard freestyle relay) bringing home individual SEC titles. The relay team set a league and school record with a time of 6:12.85.

The Gators’ women finished third but also picked up four individual titles via junior Natalie Hinds (100-yard freestyle), freshman Amelia Maughan (200-yard freestyle), redshirt freshman Theresa Michalak (200-yard individual medley) and junior Jessica Thielmann (1,650-yard freestyle). Hinds set a program mark with a time of 47.26 seconds.

In total, Florida over the weekend added automatic qualifications for 25 events in the forthcoming 2015 NCAA Championships.

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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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Top 14 for 2014: Florida Gators best moments of the year

For as bad as things went for the Florida Gators at times in 2014 (see the Not Top 14 for 2014), there were more than a fair share of bright spots. From breathtaking moments and game-winning plays to winning championships and setting records, the Gators had plenty to be proud of in 2014. Check out OnlyGators.com‘s Top 14 for 2014.

14 » RARE WOMEN’S BASKETBALL UPSET

Gators women’s basketball has struggled to find relevancy but there was no question Florida had its engines running on Jan. 5 when it pulled off one of the biggest victories in program history, an 83-73 upset win over No. 6 Kentucky. The win broke a six-game losing streak for UF against UK and was head coach Amanda Butler’s first win over a top-10 ranked opponent after going 0-17 previously in such games. Florida had lost 19-straight regular-season games against top 10-ranked opponents, earning its last victory to such a team in Feb. 2006.

13 » TEBOW TIME ALL THE TIME

Former Gators quarterback Tim Tebow had a life-changing 2014 after agreeing to sign a long-term broadcasting deal with ESPN. Tebow was featured on the network’s national title broadcast that season and was later assigned to the SEC Network where he served as one of three analysts for the channel’s Saturday pre-game show, SEC Nation. Tebow has drawn rave reviews throughout 2014 for his passionate opinions and consistent on-air knowledge. He also proved to be unbiased, lambasting the leadership on Florida’s offense when the team struggled during the middle of the season. One Tebow moment – a spot-on impersonation of former Gators head coach Steve Spurrier – was OnlyGators.com’s most-watched Vine with 1.3 million loops as of press time.

Tebow also closed 2014 with a brilliant on-air prediction, which you can check out below.

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