Special to GC
Gainesville, Fla. – The No. 1-seeded University of Florida softball team clinched a berth in the NCAA Gainesville Regional final with a 7-0 win against Hofstra on Saturday at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium. Senior pitcher Lauren Haeger pitched her second career postseason shutout, allowing three hits and no walks with eight strikeouts while pacing Florida with three hits on offense.
The Orange and Blue got on the board in the bottom of the first as Kirsti Merritt hit a one-out double to left-center to set up an RBI single by Haeger. Nicole DeWitt followed with a two-out infield single before Taylore Fuller extended the Gator lead to 4-0 with a three-run home run off the scoreboard in left-center.
UF padded its advantage in the fifth on a two-run single by Kelsey Stewart that plated Justine McLean and pinch-runner Taylor Schwarz. With one down in the sixth, Bailey Castro launched a solo home run to left, providing the final margin in Florida’s 7-0 win.
STARS OF THE GAME
* Lauren Haeger: One of the Gators’ two top-10 finalists for National Player of the Year, the right-hander went 3-for-4 to help her own cause and earn her fourth career NCAA Tournament victory.
* Taylore Fuller: Florida’s No. 2 RBI producer drove in a game-high three runs while logging her 11th multi-hit contest of the season.
* Kelsey Stewart: The All-America infielder drove in two runs to log her second multi-RBI game of the postseason (also: 5/7 vs. South Carolina).
* Fuller’s home run was her fourth in nine games dating back to April 25; before that stretch, the junior had gone five weeks without a homer.
* Seven of the Trenton, Fla., native’s 13 home runs this season have come with two or more runners on base.
* The junior hit her first NCAA Tournament home run since May 18, 2013, vs. USF, a span of 12 NCAA games.
* Fuller now has three career home runs in NCAA play.
* Beginning with the final out of the first inning, Haeger struck out five consecutive batters, marking the second straight game a Gator pitcher has fanned at least five in a row (Ocasio, 6 vs. Florida A&M).
* Stewart leads the team with four hits through the first two games of the Regional.
* Four other Gators have collected three hits apiece so far this weekend (DeWitt, Haeger, McLean, Merritt).
* Florida’s All-America infielder notched her third multi-RBI game in NCAA Tournament play (last: 5/25/14 vs. Washington, Game 2).
* Haeger had three hits, representing her fifth game with three knocks this season (last: 4/25 vs. Texas A&M).
* The Arizona native now has a pair of three-hit games in her NCAA Tournament career (also: 6/3/14 vs. Alabama).
* Eleven different Gators have scored at least one run through two games of the Regional, while six have collected at least one RBI.
* Over the two games, Haeger and Ocasio have allowed no runs on four hits with 25 strikeouts in 14.0 innings.
Florida will face the winner of Saturday night’s elimination game in the regional final on Sunday at 1 p.m. ET. If necessary, a second game would be played at 3:30. Live video of the game(s) will be available on ESPN3, with Jonathan Yardley (play-by-play) and former Arizona All-American Jenny Dalton-Hill (analysis) on the call. Florida Sports Talk will have the radio broadcast with Adam Schick (play-by-play) and former Gator All-American Megan Bush (analysis) as the announce team. In addition, live stats will be available through GameTracker on the schedule page of GatorZone.com.