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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Florida Gators softball run-rules Washington Huskies 9-0 in Gainesville Super Regional

No. 5 seed Florida Gators softball (49-11) made quick work of the No. 12 seed Washington Huskies (36-14) on Saturday, ousting the visitors 9-0 in a five-inning, run-ruled win in the first game of the Gainesville Super Regional at Pressly Softball Stadium in Gainesville, Florida.

Senior right-handed pitcher Hannah Rogers (5.0 IP, 4 H, 2 BB, 5 K) tossed a complete game shutout for the Gators, which led 2-0 through three innings but broke out with a seven-run fourth to leave the Huskies in their dust.

Things got started for Florida in the fourth when sophomore catcher Aubree Munro singled to start the frame and junior shortstop Kathlyn Medina followed with a double down the left field line. A sacrifice fly from sophomore second baseman Kelsey Stewart (2/3, RBI, R) scored Munro from third, and Medina came around one batter later when senior third baseman Stephanie Tofft singled to shortstop.

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Florida softball sweeps Gainesville Regional; Gators set to host Super Regional

By Jordan McPherson – OnlyGators.com Contributor

No. 5 Florida Gators softball (48-11) is one step closer to making its sixth Women’s College World Series appearance in seven years after closing out a sweep of the Gainesville Regional with a victory on Sunday.

Breezing through its first two opponents at Pressly Softball Stadium in Gainesville, Florida, UF shut out the Central Florida Knights (43-18) in the regional final on Sunday, winning 7-0 and advancing to the Super Regional portion of the 2014 NCAA Tournament for the seventh time in an eight-year span.

Gators junior right-hander Lauren Haeger (7.0 IP, 5 H, 5 K) tossed a five-hit shutout in Sunday’s finale to pick up her 10th win of the season and drop her ERA to a team-best 1.57. After giving up back-to-back singles to open the bottom of the first, Haeger calmed down and retired the next 11 batters, only scatting five singles in the contest.

But her contribution to Florida’s win extended much further than the pitcher’s circle. Haeger (1/5, HR, 3 RBI, R) blasted her team-leading 19th home run of the season — a one out, two-run shot in the first inning — which was also her third homer in as many games during the Gainesville Regional.

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Florida softball sweeps UAB in Super Regional, moves on to Women’s College World Series

One day after coming from behind to walk off with a 4-3 victory over the UAB Blazers, No. 2 Florida Gators softball nearly lost a one-run lead in the bottom of the seventh but instead held on to win game two of the Gainesville Super Regional 1-0 and advance to the Women’s College World Series for the fifth time in program history.

Florida (57-7) and UAB (40-19) were scoreless through three innings with Gators right-hander Hannah Rogers looking primed for one of her standout performances. Rogers (7.0 IP, 4 H, 2 BB, 7 K) struck out the first five batters she faced on Sunday, boosting the confidence of her entire team in the early going.

After stranding a total of two runners in the first three innings, Florida finally got on the board in the fourth. Sophomore designated player Lauren Haeger (1/2, BB) singled to left before senior Ensley Gammel entered the game as a pinch runner to take her place on first base. Gammel (R, SB) stole second after the Gators registered their second out of the inning and came around to score on an RBI double to left-center from freshman first baseman Taylor Schwarz (1/3, RBI).

UF was only 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position on Sunday with Schwarz’s big hit making all the difference.

Rogers continued to deal, stranding a Blazers base runner in the fifth and sixth before closing things out for the Gators in the seventh to conclude her complete-game outing. The bottom of the seventh was not without its share of excitement, however.

A one-out double from UAB catcher Anna Kimbrell came about a foot from leaving the park but instead bounced off the wall. Two batters later, with pinch runner Hailey Glynn replacing Kimbrell, pitcher/designated player Lauren Webster smacked an infield single that was fumbled by Florida freshman second baseman Kelsey Stewart (0/3) and therefore allowed Glynn to move over to third.

The Blazers decided Stewart’s mishandling of the ball was its best chance to tie the contest and sent Glynn home from third, but Stewart threw her out by a wide margin at home plate to end the game and begin the Gators’ dog pile on the infield dirt.

Florida’s fifth Women’s College World Series appearance comes one year after the program was uncharacteristically knocked out of the NCAA Tournament during regional play. The Gators were predicted to finish seventh in the Southeastern Conference this season but instead won the league’s regular-season and tournament titles, entering NCAA play as the No. 2 overall seed.

UF is 8-0 in postseason play this year, outscoring opponents by a combined 52-18.

All five of the Gators’ WCWS appearances have come in the last six seasons.

Florida will take on Tennessee in double elimination bracket play beginning Thursday at a yet to be determined time. UF won two of three games against UT during the 2013 regular season in Gainesville, FL. All three games went to extra innings.

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Two-run seventh pushes Florida past UAB

No. 2 Florida Gators softball blew two opportunities to put Saturday’s showdown with the UAB Blazers away but came up clutch when it mattered the most, registering two runs in the bottom of the seventh to walk off with a 4-3 win in the first game of the Gainesville Super Regional at Pressly Softball Stadium in Gainesville, FL.

Florida had the bases juiced with no outs in the bottom of the sixth but failed to plate a runner, leaving the game tied 2-2. In the top of the seventh, the Gators dropped a routine pop out that would have ended the frame; shortly thereafter, the Blazers put the go-ahead run on the board, taking a one-run lead heading into the final frame.

Trailing 3-2 entering the bottom of the seventh, Florida quickly loaded the bases again without coughing up an out as sophomore designated player Lauren Haeger (1/3, R, BB) and senior right fielder Kelsey Horton (0/2, RBI, R, BB) drew walks and freshman first baseman Taylor Schwarz (0/3) was hit by a pitch. Sophomore left fielder Brianna Little (1/1, RBI, 2 BB) was then plunked in the thigh by UAB hurler Leigh Streetman, tying the game at 3-3 with the bases still loaded for the Gators.

Freshman catcher Taylore Fuller (1/4) struck out looking, putting Florida’s first out on the board, but sophomore shortstop Katie Medina (1/3, RBI) erased concerns about wasting a bases-loaded opportunity for the second-straight inning by smacking a walk-off RBI single to left that pushed the Gators ahead of the Blazers for good.

Florida came back from three separate one-run deficits on Saturday, tying the game in the third and fifth innings before pulling away in the final frame. Junior right-handed pitcher Hannah Rogers (32-5, 7.0 IP, 6 H, 3 R [2 ER], 4 BB, 4 K) was not her best but nevertheless got the job done for the Gators in a complete game outing.

Gainesville Super Regional action will continue on Sunday as Florida (56-7) and UAB (40-18) return to the field at noon for a game set to air nationally on ESPN. Should a third game in the best-of-three series be necessary, it would begin around 3 p.m. on Sunday and also be shown live on ESPN.

One win Sunday would send the Gators back to the Women’s College World Series for the fifth time in school history (all in the last six seasons).

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Florida Gators softball (3-0) wins Gainesville Regional, advances to Super Regional play

No. 2 Florida Gators softball on Sunday advanced to Super Regional play for the sixth time in the last seven seasons after defeating the South Florida Bulls 2-0 in the finals of the Gainesville Regional round of the 2013 NCAA Tournament.

Despite serving as hosts for the regionals, Florida was the road team in Sunday’s final game. The Gators (55-7) went hitless for 6.1 innings at Pressly Softball Stadium in Gainesville, FL, but made Bulls pitcher Sara Nevins work hard in the fourth inning. Florida scored two runs on four walks and a hit by pitch.

Junior right-handed pitcher Hannah Rogers (7.0 IP, 3 H, 5 K) earned the victory, her second of the weekend against USF, by tossing a complete game shutout on Sunday. Rogers (5.0 IP, H, R, 4 BB, 6 K) also helped UF pick up a dominant 11-1 win on Saturday in a five-inning run-ruled affair.

Sophomore designated player Lauren Haeger (2/2, HR, 7 RBI, R) led the way for the Gators on Saturday, tying the school’s single-game RBI record in the process.

Sophomore righty Alyssa Bache (7.0 IP, 2 H, R, BB, 4 K) took the mound for Friday’s regional opener against the Hampton Pirates and looked strong despite giving up a run in the top of the first. She had plenty of support from Florida’s hitters with Haeger (2/3, 2 RBI, BB) and senior right fielder Kelsey Horton (2/4, HR, 2 RBI, 2 R) each plating two runs. The Gators easily won 7-1.

As the No. 2 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament, Florida the will host UAB in the best-of-three Super Regional in Gainesville beginning on May 23. The Gators return to Super Regional action for the first time since 2011 after being upset during the 2012 Gainesville Regional by the Bulls.

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No. 1 Florida Gators baseball advances to College World Series with extra-inning 9-8 victory

No. 1 Florida Gators baseball (47-18) advanced to the College World Series for the third-straight season after completing a 9-8 victory in an extra-inning affair on Sunday against the No. 16 N.C. State Wolfpack (43-20) in the second game of Super Regional action at McKethan Stadium in Gainesville, FL.

Florida swept the Super Regional from N.C. State after picking up a 7-1 victory on Saturday but needed seven pitchers, three clutch home runs and 10 full innings to register the come-from-behind win on Sunday.

Sophomore right-handed pitcher Jonathon Crawford started on the hill for UF and threw 17 pitches in his first two innings of work before a weather delay forced the teams off the field. He wound up returning following a 2:23 delay though his opponent, ace Carlos Rodon, ended his day with three strikeouts over three no-hit innings.

Upon returning to the mound, Crawford gave up a lead-off double to end a streak of 14.2 innings without allowing a hit dating back to May 22. He was then hit for an RBI double two batters later as the Wolfpack took a 1-0 lead through three innings.

The Gators did not waste time taking back control of the game as senior right fielder Preston Tucker (1/4, HR, RBI, R, BB, SB) led off the top of the fourth by turning on the first pitch he saw and sending it out of the park to tie the contest. The onslaught continued against N.C. State reliever Anthony Tzamtzis as Florida juniors catcher Mike Zunino and designated hitter Brian Johnson hit back-to-back doubles to put runners on second and third with no outs.

Freshman second baseman Casey Turgeon followed two batters later with an RBI single to right to score Zunino, giving UF a 2-1 lead and sending Tzamtzis to the showers. The Gators added two more runs to increase their advantage to 4-1 with freshman left fielder Justin Shafer hitting a sacrifice fly to center that scored Johnson, and Turgegon coming around to score after stealing a base and being knocked in via an RBI single to left by junior first baseman Vickash Ramjit (1/5, RBI).

The Wolfpack similarly responded by tagging Crawford (3.2 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, BB, 5 K) for three-straight two-out hits in the bottom of the fourth. With runners on first and second, RF Brian Austin smacked a two-RBI double to deep center that reduced his team’s deficit to 4-3 and brought senior RHP Greg Larson out of the bullpen.

Read the rest of the Florida-N.C. State game story…after the break!
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Florida tops N.C. State 7-1 in rain-delayed affair

A superb starting performance on the hill coupled with plenty of clutch hitting sent No. 1 Florida Gators baseball (46-18) to a 7-1 victory over the No. 16 N.C. State Wolfpack (43-19) in the first game of the Super Regional portion of the 2012 NCAA Tournament at McKethan Stadium in Gainesville, FL on Saturday.

Florida junior right-hander Hudson Randall (9-2) pitched the first seven innings of the contest and may have gone longer had a rain delay not halted action for over two hours. He struck out four and did not allow any walks while scattering six hits in his outing. The Gators used a four-run third to give them an early lead and continued to add runs over the duration of the contest to cruise to victory and get themselves within one win of advancing to the College World Series for the third-straight season.

With one out in the bottom of the third, Florida strung together three-straight singles to plate the first run of the game. Senior right fielder Preston Tucker knocked in freshman third baseman Josh Tobias (1/4, R), who had advanced to third on a hit-and-run one play earlier. Junior catcher Mike Zunino then earned an RBI on a fielder’s choice but reached and advanced to second on an error by the shortstop that allowed the Gators to add two more runs. Two batters later, senior centerfielder Daniel Pigott singled up the middle to send Zunino home and extend Florida’s lead to 4-0 through three innings.

The Gators threatened again in the fifth by loading the bases after consecutive singles from Tucker and Zunino and a base on balls by junior designated hitter Brian Johnson. A sacrifice fly from Pigott (1/3, 2 RBI, SB) scored Tucker and increased UF’s lead to 5-0, but freshman second baseman Casey Turgeon (0/4) ended the inning by grounding into a 4-6-3 double play as N.C. State staved off further damage.

A rain delay two innings later forced the proceedings to halt in the bottom of the seventh as Florida had Tucker (2/3, RBI, 3 R, BB, SB) on first and Zunino at the plate on a full count with no outs recorded. Play resumed 2:03 later with rain falling as soon as the first pitch was thrown; that did not stop Zunino (2/4, HR, 3 RBI, 2 R) who towered the second pitch he saw into left for a two-run homer, increasing the Gators’ lead to 7-0.

The home run was Zunino’s third in as many games and increased his total to 19 on the year (the most in school history for a catcher in a single season).

Unfortunately for both teams the rain soon began falling even harder than it was before and a second rain delay was called 18 minutes later as the Wolfpack had a runner on first with two outs in the top of the eighth. The second delay lasted just 48 minutes with senior RHP Greg Larson (0.2 IP, H, BB, K), who replaced Randall after the first rain delay, giving up a hit and exiting with runners on second and third. Freshman lefty Bobby Poyner (0.2 IP, K) and sophomore RHP Keenan Kish (0.2 IP, 2 H, ER) combined to register the final four outs of the game with Kish allowing a pair of two-out hits to plate a run before the end of the contest.

Florida will once again host N.C. State on Sunday in the second game of the Super Regional, which will air live on ESPNU at 1 p.m.

Watch ESPN’s highlight package from the game…after the break!
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