Sunday, May 18, 2014

Gator Softball Advances to Super Regionals

The #5 seeded Florida Gator softball team took the field today needing just one win to advance to the seventh Super Regionals in program history. Standing in there way was the UCF Knights, who the Gators defeated earlier in the season by a score of 10-6. The Knights would have to beat the Gators twice on this blistering hot Sunday in Gainesville if they wished to advance to their first Super Regionals in program history. Two games would not be needed as the #8 Gators defeated the Knights 7-0 to move on in the NCAA Tournament.

Lauren Haeger got things going early for the Gators as she belted a two run home run in the top of the first inning. The Gators would tack on one more run off an error and carried a 3-0 lead into the bottom of the first inning. By the way Haeger was pitching today, three runs would have been more than enough run support. The junior allowed just five hits while striking out five on route to pitching a complete game shutout for her 10th win of the year. She allowed no extra base hits and this can be credited to the good defense behind her. Here are a few good plays I saw:
  • Second baseman Kelsey Stewart fielded a ground ball almost in the outfield and made a spinning throw to first base to get the UCF runner out.
  • Outfielder Briana Little tracked a deep fly ball to the wall to make the catch with two UCF runners on base in the bottom of the first.
  • Shortstop Kathlyn Medina caught a sharp ground ball on the run, tagged second base, and then threw it to first base for an inning ending double play in the sixth inning.
  • Catcher Aubree Munro threw out a UCF runner attempting to steal second in the bottom of the seventh.  
The Gator defense was superb today and will have to stay that way for them as they get deeper into the NCAA tournament.

Offensively, I mentioned the Gators jumped on the board early with a three run first inning. They would strike again in the third inning as Taylor Fuller singled home Justine McLean to make it 4-0 Florida. The very next inning, Haeger would pick up her third RBI of the day on a fielder's choice that plated Kelsey Stewart to push the lead to 5-0. Florida would add their last two runs in the sixth inning on a Kirsti Merrit two run single that scored Justine McLean and Briana Little. The Gators only had three more hits than UCF (eight in total), but it was their smart base running that put them in the right position to score runs. 

My only concern for the Florida offense would have to be the runners left on base. The Gators loaded the bases in both the second and the seventh inning with one out and were able to bring no one home! Granted, it was 7-0 by the time the seventh rolled around and Lauren Haeger did hit a grand slam that the umps called foul. When you win by seven runs and shut out your opponent, I guess it really doesn't matter if you leave 12 runners on base as long as your team gets the win.

Looking ahead, the #5 Gators (48-11) will be back in action May 22-25 as they host the Super Regionals here in Gainesville. They will be taking on the #12 seeded Washington Huskies (35-13) in what will be a rematch of the 2009 Women's College World Series (which Washington won). Here's a quick preview. The Gators outscored all three of their regional opponents by a score of 29-0 while Washington outscored theirs 26-0. Both teams finished fourth in their respective conferences of the SEC and the PAC-12 (with Florida being eliminated in the quarterfinal of the SEC tournament by the hands of Georgia). Based off of these stats, both these teams look to be pretty equal and it should make for a great Super Regional.

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