Tennessee blasts Florida 9-2 in WCWS opener

By Adam Silverstein
May 30, 2013

No. 2 Florida Gators softball (57-8) is now one loss away from elimination in the Women’s College World Series portion of the 2013 NCAA Tournament after the No. 7 Tennessee Volunteers (50-10) took it to the home team early and often, pulling away for a dominant 9-2 victory in Thursday’s opening-round game.

Florida, which edged Tennessee two games to one during a regular-season series that consisted of three-straight extra-inning affairs, struggled with its pitching in the early going and was never able to recover.

Junior right-handed pitcher Hannah Rogers got the start for the Gators but immediately loaded the bases as she had trouble finding the strike zone. Rogers (0.1 IP, H, 3 ER, 3 BB) walked two and gave up a single to load the bases before walking home the Volunteers’ first run of the game and putting her team in a 1-0 hole.

Florida head coach Tim Walton pulled Rogers for sophomore Lauren Haeger, who gave up a two-run double to Melissa Brown that fronted Tennessee a 3-0 lead.

The Gators only registered one hit through four innings but nearly turned things around in the fifth. Sophomore left fielder Jessica Damico (0/2, R, BB, SB) opened the frame with a lead-off walk, stole second and came around to score on a one-out RBI triple smacked by freshman second baseman Kelsey Stewart (2/4, RBI, R).

With two down, freshman third baseman Stephanie Tofft (1/4, RBI) singled to center, scoring Stewart from third and reducing Florida’s deficit to 3-2. The Gators loaded the bases after Haeger (0/3 | 6.1 IP, 10 H, 6 R [4 ER], 2 BB, 4 K) was hit by a pitch and senior right fielder Kelsey Horton (0/3, BB) drew a walk but were unable to plate another runner. The game-tying run was just 60 feet away, but freshman first baseman Taylor Schwarz (0/3) grounded out to third to end the inning.

The Vols did not wait long to respond, scoring four runs on three hits and two errors before even registering an out in the top of the sixth. Tennessee’s lead ballooned to 9-2 as it took advantage of a bevy of miscues in the seventh, and Florida’s chances of moving on to the winner’s bracket vanished.

The Gators’ 11-game winning streak, which included eight-straight postseason victories, came to a screeching halt on Thursday. The nine runs UF coughed up were a season-high, and the Gators lost a game by more than two runs for the first time all season.

Now one game away from elimination, Florida will take on No. 14 Nebraska on Saturday at noon. The victor will play a second elimination game that evening at 7 p.m. against the loser of UT vs. No. 11 Washington, which will be played on Friday at 7 p.m.

One Comment

  1. Ken (CA) says:

    After some really solid and dominant regular season and even conference tournament performances, for whatever reason, except for Gymnastics the NCAA tourney has been a real train wreck for our ladies this year. really thought it was going to be a record breaking championship year in some that just flopped, and even Softball, while still have a chance, have a tough road ahead, dug a deep hole. I know a lot weren’t expecting much this season, but all the way back when they were predicted to come in low in the east, I said no way this team is going to be a lot better than that. This should have been a real cruise to the championship game with a team they beat 2/3 times this season and 2 big underdogs on their side.

    Hopefully they can come back with better pitching the rest of the tourney…

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