Rogers deals Florida to WCWS win over Oregon

By Jordan McPherson — OnlyGators.com Contributor

Senior right-handed pitcher Hannah Rogers is taking no prisoners in the 2014 NCAA Tournament, turning in another brilliant shutout performance to propel the No. 5 seed Florida Gators over the No. 1 seed Oregon Ducks 4-0 on Friday in the second round of the Women’s College World Series.

Rogers (7.0 IP, 3 H, 5 K, BB) faced just two batters above the minimum against Oregon (55-8-1) as she registered her 40th career solo shutout and extended her streak of consecutive scoreless innings to 33 – including 28-straight in NCAA Tournament play.

Florida (52-12) has now shutout its opponent in seven of eight NCAA Tournament games and is outscoring its adversaries 64-4 in that span.

“I’m just competing against myself,” Rogers said in a postgame interview on ESPN2. “[I’m] just throwing my pitches and throwing what I’ve always known to do.”

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Grand slam lifts Florida over Baylor in WCWS

For the fifth time in seven 2014 NCAA Tournament games, No. 5 seed Florida Gators softball run-ruled an opponent. On Thursday afternoon in the opening game of the Women’s College World Series, the Gators accomplished the feat in spectacular fashion with a pinch-hit, walk-off grand slam sealing the victory.

Florida (51-12) jumped on the No. 13 seed Baylor Bears (47-15) early and kept the pressure on throughout the contest, earning an 11-0 win on the back of five shutout innings senior right-handed pitcher Hannah Rogers (5.0 IP, H, 3 BB, 6 K), who has now gone 26 consecutive innings – 21 in NCAA play – without surrendering a single run.

Defensive miscues and errors doomed Baylor early and often on Thursday. BU spotted UF three unearned runs in the first inning with a sacrifice fly by senior third baseman Stephanie Tofft (1/1, RBI, R) and two-RBI double from junior right fielder Bailey Castro (1/2, 2 RBI) giving the Gators a 3-0 lead.

Sophomore center fielder Kirsti Merritt (2/3, HR, RBI, 2 R) led off the third with a solo shot to center, and sophomore second baseman Kelsey Stewart (1/3, RBI, SB) connected on an RBI single in the fourth to push Florida’s advantage up to 5-0.

The Gators decided it would be best to call it a day early in the bottom of the fifth, opening the bottom frame by loading the bases on three-straight hits.

Freshman RF Justine McLean (0/1, RBI) legged out a fielder’s choice for an RBI, and sophomore first baseman Taylor Schwarz (0/2, RBI) earned one of her own after being hit by a pitch on an 0-2 count, leaving Florida one run away from a victory.

Head coach Tim Walton choosing to pinch hit freshman Chelsea Herndon for sophomore catcher Aubree Munro (1/2, R) proved to be an inspired decision as Herndon ended the game by jacking a grand slam to left center.

The Gators have outscored opponents 60-4 in seven NCAA Tournament games, only allowing runs to be scored in one of those contests.

UF advanced to face either No. 1 seed Oregon or No. 8 seed Florida State in a winner’s bracket game on Friday at 7 p.m. live on ESPN. The Gators went 1-0 against the Ducks and 1-1 against the Seminoles during the regular season.

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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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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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2014 Florida softball primer: Is this the year?

By Mike Brandes – OnlyGators.com Contributor

Spring is here and No. 3/4 Florida Gators softball is set to kick off the 2014 season by playing six games in four days as part of the Wilson-Demarini Tournament in Tampa, FL.

The Gators open as the preseason favorite to with the Southeastern Conference title, according to the league’s coaches, receiving 10 of 13 first-place votes.

Florida hopes to improve successful 2013 season which saw it finish 58-9 on the year and advance as far as the semifinals of bracket play in the 2013 Women’s College World Series. While the Gators once again fell short in Oklahoma City, OK, they return the core of last year’s squad and possess the veteran leadership to make another deep postseason run, one which could result in program’s first-ever national title despite five WCWS appearances in the last six seasons.

KEY DEPARTURES

Outfielder Kelsey Horton: The 2012 Capital One All-American, Horton was a mainstay in the outfield for Florida, starting 65 games while also serving as a team captain. She was a steady offensive presence in the middle of the lineup, finishing the 2013 season batting .262 (slugging .524) with 10 home runs and 37 RBIs. While Horton’s ability to impact the team on the field will be missed, her presence in the locker room and dugout might be the greatest loss for the Gators.

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Top 13 for 2013: Florida’s best moments of the year

For as bad as things went for the Florida Gators at times in 2013 (see the Not Top 13 for 2013), there were more than a fair share of bright spots. From breathtaking moments and game-winning plays to earning championships and setting records, the Gators had plenty to be proud of in 2013. Check out OnlyGators.com‘s Top 13 for 2013.

13 » A NEW TRADITION
Florida’s football program did not get much right in 2013, but instituting a new pre-game tradition – a “celebrity” serving as Mr. Two Bits in honor of the original, George Edmondson – was absolutely a bright spot. The Gators also picked the perfect person to kick off the new tradition with former running back Errict Rhett performing as if he was made for the role. Others had trouble stepping up to the high benchmark set by Rhett, but the honorary Mr. Two Bits was nevertheless a great sight for fans all season long…even if the team was not. OnlyGators.com sat down with Rhett after his appearance for an extensive interview about the experience and his career.

12 » 15-INNING MARATHON
In the fourth-longest game ever played at the Women’s College Series (longest since 1992), Florida softball prevailed 9-8 over Nebraska in a night game that lasted 15 innings and more than five hours, spanning into the early morning of the next day. The Gators lost two separate leads in the contest before rallying to score two runs in the top of the 15th; UF conceded a run in the latter half of the inning but held on for the victory. Unfortunately for Florida, it had to suit up just hours later for an elimination game against Texas at 1 p.m., one it lost 3-0. The Gators were ranked No. 2 entering the 2013 NCAA Tournament but fell short of a title.

11 » ALL HE WANTED WAS A CHANCE


Redshirt junior quarterback Tyler Murphy waited patiently as he got overlooked time and time again, most recently by head coach Will Muschamp and his offensive coordinators in favor of younger players with higher ratings coming out of high school. When junior QB Jeff Driskel went down with a fractured fibula against Tennessee, Murphy finally got his shot and made the most of it. Over a three-game stretch including games on Sept. 21, Sept. 28 (at Kentucky) and Oct. 5 (vs. Arkansas), Murphy completed 39-of-54 passes (72.2 percent) for 530 yards with five touchdowns and just one interception. (He also gained 135 yards and picked up two more scores with his legs.) Unfortunately for him, Murphy injured his shoulder on Oct. 12 against LSU and was simply not the same player as he took the field in more pain than he or the coaching staff decided to admit publicly. Murphy missed the final three games of the season due to that injury and ultimately transferred, feeling Muschamp would not give him a fair chance to win the starting job in 2014.

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No. 4 Texas blanks No. 2 Florida 3-0, eliminating Gators from Women’s College World Series

Forced to take the field less than 13 hours after last leaving it, No. 2 Florida Gators softball simply could not make contact with the ball, only registering one hit and striking out 14 times as the No. 4 Texas Longhorns picked up a 3-0 win in Sunday’s Women’s College World Series elimination game.

Florida (58-9) got most of its base runners on walks and hit batters as Texas (50-9) ace Blaire Luna kept the Gators at bay with her great command and terrific riseball, shutting out UF for the first and only time this season.

After getting a lead-off batter on board and in scoring position for the third-straight inning, the Longhorns finally delivered in the top of the third. With one down and runners on first and second, Kim Bruins lifted a ball just over the left field fence and off the outstretched glove of Gators sophomore left fielder Brianna Little for a three-run homer that provided Texas an early 3-0 advantage.

Florida responded by loading the bases in the bottom frame on a walk and two batters being hit by pitches, but sophomore designated player Lauren Haeger stranded all three of her teammates by striking out on a full count to end the inning.

Luna no-hit the Gators for 3.1 innings until freshman catcher Taylore Fuller finally smacked a single down the left field line. Florida wound up with two down and runners on first and second but left the inning without plating a run as sophomore pinch hitter Bailey Castro registered UF’s ninth strikeout in the first four innings.

Junior right-hander Hannah Rogers (7.0 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 4 BB, 4 K) allowed too many lead-off batters on but only struggled mightily in the top of the third. Luna (7.0 IP, 1 H, 5 BB, 14 K) simply out-pitched her as the Gators swung at too many pitches outside and off the plate. UF struck out 39 times during 29 innings of WCWS play (three games), an average of 1.34 times per inning.

Florida concludes the 2013 season by exceeding everyone’s expectations. The Gators swept the Southeastern Conference Championships (regular-season, tournament) and were ranked as a top-five team in the nation over their final 62 games of the 2013 campaign. UF advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the 11th-straight season and moved on to the WCWS for the fifth time in the last six years.

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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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