Special to GC
Gainesville, Fla. - The No. 1-ranked University of Florida softball team saluted its senior class with a 9-5 win over No. 25 Texas A&M on Saturday afternoon at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium. The Gators knocked seven extra-base hits on the day, including two home runs and a double from a pair of fourth-year players, and Delanie Gourley came out of the bullpen to earn the win. Following the pregame Senior Day ceremonies, the Aggies took a 1-0 lead on a solo home run to lead off the second. Texas A&M added three more runs in the following frame on an RBI single and a two-run homer. A second solo shot to lead off the fourth raised the visitors' advantage to 5-0. Florida got on the board and took the lead with seven runs in the bottom of the fourth. Kirsti Merritt lined a leadoff double into the right-center field gap to set up a two-run home run to straightaway center off the bat of Lauren Haeger. Three walks loaded the bases for the Orange and Blue to bring up Taylore Fuller, who launched a grand slam down the left-field line to put UF ahead 6-5. Kelsey Stewart followed with a single to center, advancing to third on Nicole DeWitt's double down the left-field line before scoring on Merritt's sacrifice fly. Bailey Castro continued the scoring for Florida when she led off the fifth with a home run to left. Merritt then started a two-out rally in the sixth with a triple down the right-field line, and senior Francesca Martinez scored as a pinch-runner on the next play, a Haeger double to raise the lead to 9-5. The four-run cushion was enough for Gourley, who worked the final 4.2 innings in relief of Aleshia Ocasio, allowing one earned run on four hits with a walk and four strikeouts to improve to 9-1 on the year. STARS OF THE GAME * Taylore Fuller: The junior homered for the first time since her record-tying three-home-run game against LSU on March 14, giving the Gators the lead for good. * Lauren Haeger: On Senior Day, Haeger hit the 67th home run of her career, adding to her UF and SEC benchmarks. * Bailey Castro: Also part of the senior class that was recognized before the game, the Florida native slugged her 14th home run of the season, staying one behind Haeger for the team lead. NOTABLES * The Gators secured their sixth consecutive Southeastern Conference series victory. * Florida earned its second straight comeback win and its 10th of the season. * Fuller's grand slam was her fourth this season and the eighth of her career. * According to the SEC Network, Fuller is one grand slam shy of the NCAA Division I career record. * The home run was the junior's 10th of the year, setting a career high. * The Trenton, Fla., native recorded her team-best ninth game-winning RBI of the year, breaking a tie with Castro and Haeger. * The Gators have hit nine bases-loaded home runs this season. * Haeger's home run extended her school record for RBI to 246 in her career. * Castro homered for the second straight game and the third time in four contests. * Merritt's triple was her first three-base hit of the year. * Gourley earned her first win since April 4, when she picked up the 'W' in Game 2 of a doubleheader against South Carolina. WALTON'S WORDS On the impact the senior class has made during the last four years: "The biggest reward for a program is a national championship. To be a part of that as a player is something that nobody will ever be able to take away from you. You can letter - that's a special moment. You can get a game-winning hit - that's a special moment. But [the national title is] the ultimate historical moment for all the players on that team - it's a memory you can never take away. You're enshrined in Gator history forever." On Fuller's penchant for clutch hitting, evidenced by her eight career grand slams: "There are a lot of factors. She's feeding off the crowd and the moment. She has a matchup she feels good about, and she gets aggressive. I think she actually tries to hit fly balls in that situation, and she does a good job getting the right part of the ball. When your flourish in that kind of moment like she does, I think it's something you're growing up doing. In that situation, she's trying to hit a deep fly ball, and she hit a line drive right over the fence." On Sunday's Game 3: "We've got a lot of things to do. We're going to have to pitch a little bit better, play better defense [and] hit better. I'd like to see our clutch at-bats improve - not so much in terms of home runs, but at the end of the game, to be able to get a two-out knock with a runner in scoring position. Be able to do the little things. This game is all about little things, and I want this team to go out and do the little things really well tomorrow." - Florida Head Coach Tim Walton FLORIDA PLAYER QUOTES Senior OF Bailey Castro On the team's mindset being down 5-0 in the third inning: "This team doesn't give up. I think we've proven all season that we're never going down without a fight. Coach Walton always tells us if we have outs, we have chances, and I think that's been our motto. Whenever we're down, we know we're going to fight as best we can." On Senior Day: "Senior Day is always a mess. Ever since my freshman year, everybody's cried on Senior Day. It's a known fact. Just being able to celebrate with your team and watch the video before the game - it was such an up-and-down day, and it was just really awesome to come out with the victory." Junior UT Taylore Fuller On hitting her eighth career grand slam: "The girls always joke about it. I just go up there - I have a job that I have to do, and it just ends up being a grand slam. I try to keep it simple. I can't overthink it. If I do, then I'm going to mess up somehow. So I just keep it simple and produce for my team. No matter how many runs it is, I'm happy." On the senior class: "We've been with that class from the beginning. When we were freshmen they were sophomores, so we were the ones always on the bottom when it started. We had to work our way up, and it was the seniors and juniors always working with us and telling us how to do things. We've grown up with them, and I know that I've become a better person from all of them. Those are memories that I'll never forget." Senior RHP/1B Lauren Haeger On Castro's home run: "It was good. Bailey came up to me after I hit mine. She said, 'I'm so proud of you. That's my dream, to hit a homer on senior day,' and then she goes out and does it. She was so excited, and I was just so happy for her. She keeps my fire fueled. She's always nipping at my heels, but she's doing a great job. I love her." On Senior Day: "It's obviously bittersweet. I can speak for all the seniors and say that we've had a great four years together and I love every single one of them. They are all my best friends for life. I'm going to miss playing with every single one of them, but obviously our season is not even close to being over yet. It's amazing how much everyone contributes to this day." UP NEXT The Florida-Texas A&M series concludes at 1 p.m. ET. The contest will air on SEC Network+ through participating TV providers only via WatchESPN with Larry Vettel and former Gator All-American Megan Bush (analysis) on the call. Florida Sports Talk<http://www.floridasportstalk.fm/> will have the radio broadcast with Adam Schick (play-by-play) and former Florida player Kelsey Horton (analysis) as the announce team. In addition, a live stats link can be found on the schedule page<http://www.gatorzone.com/schedule.php?sport=softb> on GatorZone.com.