Florida softball wins six-straight to open season

By Mike Brandes – OnlyGators.com Contributor

No. 3 Florida Gators opened up the 2014 season with a clean sweep of the USF Wilson-DeMarini Tournament in Tampa, FL, winning six games over four days including a thriller over a ranked opponent.

Florida (6-0) outscored its competitors 40-13 over the weekend as junior right-handed pitcher Lauren Haeger, who was named Southeastern Conference Pitcher of the Week on Monday, shined by tossing her first-career no-hitter in the event’s penultimate matchup.

Starting off the season with a win for the eighth time in head coach Tim Walton’s nine-year tenure, the Gators topped the South Florida Bulls in their opening game. Senior RHP Hanna Rogers pitched seven innings, allowing three runs while recording six strikeouts. UF literally weathered the storm – a 25 minute rain delay – with its bats coming alive in the fourth inning.

Sophomore first baseman Taylor Schwarz led the way offensively with a bases-clearing three-RBI single in the fourth inning, which was part of a seven-run fourth for Florida. The Gators, which won 10-3, also benefited from some free passes. “We had 11 walks and five hit-by-pitches – that’s 16 free bases,” said Walton. “We had really solid plate discipline.”

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SIX BITS: awards, softball, lax, swimming, tennis

1 » There are plenty of spring sports underway right now, and the Florida Gators have gotten off to a fast start earning weekly conference honors. For the second-straight week, senior pitcher Stephanie Brombacher (softball) won the SEC Pitcher of the Week award; she tossed three shutouts in the last seven days and has a 0.00 ERA with 35 strikeouts through her first 31 innings of the season. Joining her is sophomore shortstop Nolan Fontana (baseball), who picked up the SEC Player of the Week award after going 9-for-12 and scoring five runs in his team’s season-opening series. Also making an impact was sophomore midfielder Kitty Cullen (lacrosse), who brought home the first ALC Offensive Player of the Week award in school history. She has scored 14 goals in only three games and tied a school record with six on Sunday alone.

2 » Undefeated going into the weekend, No. 5 Florida softball (9-0) completed a shutout sweep of the No. 22 North Carolina Tar Heels (4-4) from Saturday to Sunday. UF took down UNC 3-0 and 9-0 in two games Saturday and concluded their first three-game homestand of the season with a 10-0 win on Sunday at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium in Gainesville, FL. Brombacher (6-0) tossed seven scoreless innings on Saturday and five more on Sunday, only giving up a total of nine hits and two walks over the contests. Freshman P Hannah Rogers (3-0) spelled her in between, allowing only two hits in her five shutout innings.

The Gators hit four home runs on Saturday alone; senior first baseman Megan Bush (4-7, HR, 6 RBI, 2 BB) and junior center fielder Michelle Moultrie (5-7, HR, 2 RBI) connected in the first game, while senior second baseman Aja Paculba (3-8, 3 RBI) and sophomore right fielder Kelsey Horton (1-5, 3 RBI) teed-off in the second contest. Florida’s scoring Sunday came from all over the place with senior left fielder Kelsey Bruder (2-8, 2 RBI, 4 R) leading the way with a homer, two RBI and three runs scored.

3 » Cullen’s six amazing goals on Sunday helped No. 17 Gators lacrosse (2-1) top the No. 20 Denver Pioneers (0-2) 15-7 at Donald R. Dizney Stadium in Gainesville. Assisting her was sophomore attacker Ashley Bruns who scored three goals and notched a career-high four assists on her way to seven points and a hat trick.

Read the rest of this SIX BITS post…after the break!
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FOUR BITS: Crofoot, Easley, Beal, Brombacher

1 » In addition to earning a commitment from four-star 2012 running back Matt Jones (Seffner, FL) on Monday, the Florida Gators also found out that long-snapper/tight end Kyle Crofoot has decided to accept an offer to be a preferred walk-on for 2011, according to the Orlando Sentinel’s Chris Hays. The brother of Florida redshirt freshman walk-on kicker/holder John Crofoot, Kyle will enroll in the summer with hopes of eventually earning a scholarship.

2 » The subject of rumors throughout the season, Gators freshman defensive tackle Dominique Easley recently spoke with his hometown newspaper, the Staten Island Advance, about his tumultuous season and newfound happiness at Florida. “I thought about leaving,” he told the paper, citing the demanding nature of head coach Urban Meyer and the stage of The Swamp as tough obstacles to overcome. “I was just uncomfortable with a lot of things. I was wondering if I was at the right place for me. […] It wasn’t what I was used to. [Gainesville, FL] is a lot different than Staten Island.” With an improved mindset and new coaching staff behind him, Easley is hopeful to turn things around at the University of Florida. “They let me know what they expected, and said they’d give me an opportunity to show them what I can do,” he said. “That’s what I wanted to hear, and I feel a lot more comfortable about the way things are going.”

3 » Florida basketball is in the middle of putting together what looks to be an exciting season, but plenty of discussion continues to surround five-star guard Brad Beal (St. Louis, MO), who will join the program at the end of the year. Featured along with his Chaminade High School teammates on ESPNU Saturday, Beal exploded for 40 points, six assists, six rebounds and four steals as he propelled his team to a 76-58 victory. “That was something, really something,” the opposition’s head coach, Randy Reed, said of Beal’s showing. “He has a smooth, old-school spirit. One of the best I’ve ever seen in St. Louis. […] His basketball IQ is so much higher than these high school player. His IQ is like a junior in college. He’s so smooth I don’t think he even sweats on the court. I don’t think we’ll see another kid like him around here for a while.” [VIDEO]

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Bryan Burwell described Beal’s performance this way:

Randy Reed kept running different defenders at Beal, tall ones and short ones, quick ones and burly ones, and Beal lit each and every one of them up. Slashing drives down the lane. Muscling spin moves in the paint. Three-pointers and mid-range pullups that kept making sweet, sweet string music from every conceivable angle. […]

Watching him play basketball against other high school kids with less sparkling hoop résumés like this is almost unfair. He is that good. He is that smooth. He is that completely aware of how to play the game the right way, even with the dazzling athletic flourishes he put on display on national [TV].

4 » Starting her senior season with a bang, Gators pitcher Stephanie Brombacher was named Southeastern Conference Pitcher of the Week after posting a 3-0 record including her second perfect game in as many seasons. Read more about Brombacher’s trio of stellar performances over the weekend right here.

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