Homers Lead Gators to Win Over Tigers on Senior Day
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The No. 3/5 Gator Softball team earned its 11th win in 12 games on Saturday (April 26), defeating No. 15/17 Missouri 9-4 at Katie Seashole Pressly Softball Stadium. Florida (42-9, 12-8 SEC) hit three home runs on the day, and held Missouri (37-13, 13-7 SEC) scoreless for the final six innings. Junior Lauren Haeger (Peoria, Ariz.) improved to 8-1 on the season after she came out of the bullpen to work 7.0 shutout innings, allowing six hits with two walks and two strikeouts. The junior helped her own cause with two home runs and five RBI, tying her season high in both categories.
Missouri scored all four of its runs in the first inning on an RBI single, a wild pitch and a two-run base hit. The Orange and Blue went down in order in the bottom of the frame before Haeger returned the favor in the top of the second. The junior opened the scoring for Florida with a leadoff homer in the bottom of the inning, and then stranded three baserunners in the third.
The Gators took a 6-4 lead with five runs in the third. Kelsey Stewart (Wichita, Kan.) led off the inning with a bunt single before Kirsti Merritt (Lake Panasoffkee, Fla.) walked and senior Stephanie Tofft(Lincoln, Calif.) moved both up one base with a groundout. Haeger then reached on a fielder’s choice to score Stewart before Bailey Castro (Pembroke Pines, Fla.) brought Merritt home on a single to left field. Briana Little (Middleburg, Fla.) then punctuated the rally with a go-ahead three-run home run to left.
Haeger retired the Tigers on three groundouts in the fourth, and blasted a three-run homer in the home half to score Tofft and Merritt. Castro and Little drew walks following the home run, but both were stranded.
Mizzou had four baserunners in the fifth on a walk, a single and two fielder’s choices, but the Gators cut down two runners before Haeger left two on base. Stewart hit a two-out double for Florida, but she was left at second. The Gators had two baserunners in the sixth following a 1-2-3 inning from their junior pitcher, but both were stranded. The Tigers knocked a pair of two-out singles in the final frame; Haeger stranded both on a groundout to shortstop to end the game and knot the series at one apiece.
· The Gators held Senior Day festivities before the game, honoring Tofft and Hannah Rogers (Lake Wales, Fla.).
· Haeger has two of the Gators’ six 5-RBI games this season (Tofft – 2, Merritt – 1, Taylor Schwarz – 1).
· The five RBI pushed Haeger’s season total to 48, breaking a tie with Stewart for second place on the team (Tofft – 53).
· The right-hander pitched her fifth scoreless outing of the year (Last: April 12 vs. NC State – 1.0 inning).
· The junior recorded her first win since April 5 vs. Auburn, following two no-decisions.
· Haeger notched her multi-hit game of the season, which ranks fifth on the team.
· Stewart posted her UF-best 21st multi-hit contest.
· Little extended her season-best hitting streak to eight games, dating back to April 11. She is batting .440 (11x25) over that span, with nine runs scored, two doubles, two home runs, 11 RBI and two stolen bases.
· The outfielder recorded her fifth multi-RBI game of the year, and her second 3-RBI contest.
Head Coach Tim Walton
On Haeger’s strong performance out of the bullpen:
“There was no way we were winning that ballgame today without her. She did a good job of coming in and pitching well, and she provided a big offensive lift as well.”
On Little’s three-run home run:
“It was great to see [Briana] get after that swing. It was nice. She hit that a long way. She has taken a lot of pride in her [batting practice]. She’s coming to the ballpark everyday willing to work hard, and for that she’s being rewarded with a lot of starts. That’s what we do here. If you come in and play every day, we’re going to play you. I’m really happy for her to come through with a big hit for us like that.”
On tomorrow’s rubber game:
“We’re going to have to find a way to limit their offense like we did today, and then do a good job of coming out and getting some runs early and trying to change their swings.”
Junior RHP Lauren Haeger
On coming back after being down four runs in the first inning:
“Yesterday we lost the game, and our goal today was to win. We knew we needed to win, so we needed to come together and score runs.”
On how it felt to do well in the circle and at the plate:
“Great. I haven’t pitched in a while, so it’s nice to get back out there. My swings felt really good. Finally, they’re starting to feel a little bit better, slowly but surely. It was a great team effort, though.”
On how it felt to pitch multiple innings for the first time in three weeks:
“Good. I was just taking it batter by batter, pitch by pitch, just trying to hit good locations. They’re a really great hitting team, and I didn’t want to make a single mistake or leave one ball out there.
Junior OF Briana Little
On her three-run homer:
“My first at-bat, she threw that same pitch, and I watched it. I said [before] my second at bat that if she threw it again, then I would be looking for it, and she threw it.”
On how it felt to put the Gators ahead with her home run after falling behind early:
“It felt really great. I just went up there looking for good pitches to hit. If she gave me one, I was going to get after it.”
On the determination of the team to come back after giving up four runs in the first inning:
“With our team, we’re never going to quit. We’re always going to fight back, no matter if it’s the sixth or seventh inning. No matter what inning it is, we’re going to keep fighting and try to get back on top.”
FOLLOW THE GATORS
The Gators will play their final home game of the regular season on Sunday, with first pitch set for 11 a.m. ET. SUN Sports will televise the contest, with Larry Vettel and former Gator All-American Megan Bush on the call. GatorVision will have live video for subscribers. Radio coverage will be provided on WGGG (1230-AM), with Adam Schick handling play-by-play. In addition, fans can access Gametracker on the GatorZone.com schedule page to view live stats.
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