Florida softball takes down No. 1 Alabama

Freshman Taylore Fuller (Trenton, Fla.) ripped a two-RBI double to deep left center in the top of the sixth to plate the game-winning runs for the Gator softball squad in an 8-4 victory over No. 1 Alabama Wednesday at Rhoads Stadium in Tuscaloosa. No. 4 Florida improved to 23-1 overall and 4-1 over top-25 opponents this season with the win. Alabama shouldered its first loss of the year to move to 22-1.

Fuller’s clutch hit put Florida ahead, 5-4, after the sixth and UF added three more runs for insurance in the top of the seventh to close out Wednesday’s back-and-forth battle with the Crimson Tide in the unique non-conference match-up. Florida used 10 hits on the evening, including nine in the sixth and seventh combined, to top defending national champion Alabama and the Gators were led by sophomore Lauren Haeger’s (Peoria, Ariz.) 2-for-3 performance. Sophomore Briana Little (Middleburg, Fla.), senior Kelsey Horton (Valrico, Fla.) and junior Stephanie Tofft (Lincoln, Calif.) all went 2-for-4 in the four, five and six holes for the Orange and Blue.

Junior Hannah Rogers (Lake Wales, Fla.) (11-1) tossed her 11th victory of the season after working the first five innings. Rogers fanned five, gave up just two earned runs on six hits before Haeger came on for Florida’s first save of the season, putting together two innings of hitless, scoreless relief – including four strikeouts.

After scoring just one run through the first four innings, the Gators used a one-run fifth inning and two huge three-run innings – and nine more hits – in the sixth and seventh to top the Crimson Tide.

Florida went to work quickly, as freshman Kelsey Stewart drew a leadoff walk to start the game and swiped second before sophomore Lauren Haeger (Peoria, Ariz.) connected for an infield RBI single to plate UF’s first run of the contest in the top of the first.

In the back and forth battle, Alabama countered with a two-run third stanza after a scoreless second for both teams. The Tide capitalized on a UF wild pitch and used a Molly Fichtner bases-loaded walk to tie the contest, then go ahead of Florida, 2-1.

UF struck next in the top of the fifth after freshman Taylor Schwarz (Palm Beach, Fla.) drew a leadoff walk to start things off for the Orange and Blue. Following two straight outs for AU’s Jackie Traina in the circle, including a sac bunt and groundout, Stewart walked at the top of the lineup for runners on the corners for the Gators. An errant throw down to second on a Stewart stolen base allowed Schwarz to score from third, while Stewart took third on the play with the game knotted at 2-2.

Bama countered yet again in the bottom of the fifth to take a 4-2 lead after a two-run, three-hit stanza. A Kaila Hunt RBI double and a Danae Hays RBI single up the middle drove in the Tide’s two runs in the fifth frame before the Gators posted a three-run sixth inning to go ahead for good.

Three straight one-out hits for UF in the top of the sixth from Little, Horton and Tofft loaded the bags before a pop up for Schwarz put the second out on the board. With sophomore Bailey Castro (Pembroke Pines, Fla.) at the plate, Little scampered home from third on a Traina wild pitch to make it a 4-3 ballgame, while Horton and Tofft moved to second and third on the play. Castro then walked to juice the bags again for Fuller’s first-pitch RBI-double that gave the Gators a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.

Florida added three extra insurance runs in the top of the seventh, one courtesy of a speedy Stewart that took second, third and home after an Alabama error on a sac bunt. Horton connected for a RBI double and Tofft added her second hit of the night to push UF’s eighth run across the dish.

Haeger closed it out in the bottom of the seventh with two strikeouts and a fly out to retire the Crimson Tide.

The Orange and Blue will now head to Auburn, Ala., to open 2013 Southeastern Conference play against the Auburn Tigers March 8-10 at Jane B. Moore Field. The Gators and Tigers will tilt at 7 p.m. (ET) Friday and 2 p.m. (ET) on both Saturday and Sunday in Auburn. Florida is 23-9 all-time on SEC opening day and 10-4 under head coach Tim Walton in league openers.

Article courtesy of UF Communications