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).

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

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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.

Continue Reading » Florida softball sweeps Gainesville Regional; Gators set to host Super Regional

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Florida softball passes road test in Palm Springs

Participating in the 2012 Cathedral City Classic at the Big League Dreams Sports Complex in Palm Springs, CA over the long weekend, No. 1 Florida Gators softball (13-1) won four of the five games they played and went 2-1 against top 25-ranked opponents. Though Florida may get knocked down from their top ranking when the new polls are released Tuesday, the Gators still found plenty of success over the weekend.

Florida started the event with back-to-back games against top competition on Thursday afternoon. UF defeated the No. 16 Texas A&M Aggies in a 1 p.m. start before falling to the No. 5 Washington Huskies at 3:30 p.m.

The Gators scored six runs on five hits in the early contest, using sharp hitting from junior catcher Brittany Schutte (1-2, 2 RBI, R, SB) and senior center fielder Michelle Moultrie (1-2, HR, RBI, 2 R, BB) to help propel them to a 6-5 victory. Sophomore right-handed pitcher Hannah Rogers pitched a complete game, striking out seven while giving up four earned runs (three in the top of the seventh) on nine hits with two walks.

Freshman RHP Lauren Haeger suffered her first loss of the season in the latter contest, allowing five runs (three earned) on three hits with two walks and five strikeouts in 5.0 innings. Washington led 1-0 through 2.5 innings, but Florida took a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the third after a triple from freshman second baseman Katie Medina (2-3, RBI, R) and a single by freshman third baseman Sami Fagan (2-4, RBI) sent two runs in. UF would not score again, leaving six on base over the course of the contest), as UW scored pairs of runs in the top of the fifth and six to pull away with a 5-2 win.

Gators head coach Tim Walton gave Haeger an immediate opportunity for redemption, throwing her in the team’s 1 p.m. game against the Brigham Young Cougars on Friday. Florida took down BYU 3-0 thanks partially to Haeger (4-1), who struck out five while scattering five hits and two walks in six innings. Fellow freshman RHP Alyssa Bache came on for the final inning, striking out two to earn her first save of the season. UF scored all three of their runs on two dingers including a solo shot by junior designated hitter Ensley Gammel (1-3, RBI, R) and a two-run bomb by sophomore shortstop Cheyenne Coyle (1-2, 2 RBI, R, BB, SB) one inning later.

Gammel and Coyle found their power strokes again in the Gators’ second match-up on Friday, a 5-1 victory over the No. 8 Texas Longhorns. Florida got to the plate in the top of the first, but Texas matched the score with a run of their own in the bottom of the second. Gammel (1-3, RBI, R) and Coyle (1-3 RBI, R) then each connected on home runs in the top of the fourth, vaulting UF ahead of UT permanently. Haeger (1-2, 2 RBI) and Schutte (0-2, RBI, BB, SB) were responsible for the other runs in the game, while Rogers only gave up four hits while striking out eight in a complete game outing that did not include an earned run.

Rogers (8-0) earned her third win in as many days on Saturday by striking out five and scattering five hits with only one walk in a complete game outing as the Gators took down the Boise State Broncos 3-0 to close out their road trip. Schutte (1-3, 2 RBI) hit a two-RBI single in the top of the first to give Florida an early advantage, and junior right fielder Kelsey Horton (1-3, RBI, R) smacked a solo homer in the fifth to extend UF’s lead.

It should come as no surprise that some of the team’s best performers over the weekend – Schutte, Coyle, Gammel and Medina – all hail from the state of California.

The Gators returned to Gainesville, FL on Saturday and will remain in town by hosting an event next weekend. Florida will take on Eastern Michigan on Thursday before competing in the Lipton Invitational from March 2-4. UF will take on EMU again on Friday as part of the event along with Gardner-Webb (twice), Tennessee State and Campbell. The Gators are set to open Southeastern Conference play on March 7.

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TWO BITS: Brombacher’s time, tennis’ victories

1 » Former Florida Gators softball pitcher Stacey Nelson was arguabally the greatest at her position in school history. But while Nelson was dominating opposing batters on the mound, now-junior Stephanie Brombacher was waiting in the wings to become her successor. Brombacher, the team’s No. 2 pitcher for two years, is now primed to lead the Gators, bringing her 42-0 career record with her. “I’m just anxious to get out there and take over the pitching spot and see what I can do with it,” Brombacher told The Gainesville Sun. “I’m excited. I can’t wait to start playing. After that first pitch, my nerves will calm down a little bit.” She hopes to lead Florida back to the Women’s College World Series, where they fell last season to the Washington Huskies in the finals.

2 » Gators men’s and women’s tennis were both in action Friday, and each took down a ranked opponent in their respective ITA National Team Indoor Championship events. The No. 11 men’s team (5-1) defeated the previously undefeated No. 6 Baylor Bears (5-1) 4-2 in the round of 16 to advance to the quarterfinals in Charlottesville, VA. The No. 10-ranked team of redshirt senior Antoine Benneteau and junior Alexandre Lacroix squeaked by with a 9-8 (3) win. Similarly, the No. 4 women’s team (7-0) was victorious over the No. 16 Michigan Wolverines (3-1) 5-2 in their round of 16 to advance to the quarterfinals. Florida swept all three doubles matches.

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FOUR BITS: Another Lochte; Volleyball sweeps; Soccer ties, wins; Cross Country finishes 2nd

1 » Former Florida Gators student-athlete Ryan Lochte is one of the most decorated swimmers in school history. A star in college, Lochte moved on to win three gold, one silver and two bronze medals combined in the 2004 and 2008 Olympics. Looking to return the 2012 Games in London, Lochte is not the only member of his family with aquatic tendencies. His brother Devon, 19, is a redshirt freshman at Florida and plans to compete in mid-distance free style and butterfly this season. “[Devon] has got some real good physical tools and a nice feel for the water,” said Gators swimming coach Gregg Troy. While Devon not nearly as good as his older brother, he is getting there. “If he’s 110 percent devoted and dedicated and willing to push his body, I think he’s going to be better than me,” Ryan said. In truth, all that Devon cares about is getting to the Olympics and achieving his secret lifelong goal. “We never really told anyone, but we want to be in the Olympics on the same relay team,” Devon said.

Continue Reading » FOUR BITS: Another Lochte; Volleyball sweeps; Soccer ties, wins; Cross Country finishes 2nd

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