Special to GC
GAINESVILLE, Fla. - Behind senior Lauren Haeger's two-hitter, the No. 1-seeded University of Florida softball team (54-6) blanked Kentucky (33-25) on Saturday afternoon in front of a sellout crowd (1,739) in Game 1 of an NCAA Super Regional, 7-0 at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium. The Peoria, Ariz. product improved to 27-1 on the season and has now tossed 22.2 consecutive scoreless innings against the Wildcats. Offensively, UF was led by freshman Kayli Kvistad, who notched her seventh career three-RBI game. UF jumped on the Wildcats early, as the Gators plated four runs in the bottom of the first inning on three hits. Florida loaded the bases following a pair of singles by junior Kelsey Stewart and freshman Nicole DeWitt and a walk from junior Kirsti Merritt. Junior Taylore Fuller was then hit-by-a-pitch to plate Stewart and give UF a 1-0 lead. Kvistad then bashed a bases-clearing double over UK's right fielder to give UF a 4-0 advantage. The Gators never looked back. Behind great defense and standout pitching from Haeger, UF held the Wildcats to just two baserunners to secure the Game 1 victory. Florida tacked on three insurance runs in the sixth, as Haeger blasted a solo homer and Merritt hit a two-run bomb to give UF a commanding 7-0 lead. Bailey Castro reached base before Merritt's long ball as she was hit by a pitch. Those homers were the 16th and ninth jacks of the season for Haeger and Merritt, respectively. STARS OF THE GAME * Lauren Haeger: The right-hander retired Kentucky's first 16 batters and allowed just two baserunners the entire game. * Kayli Kvistad: The freshman's three-run double extended the Gators' lead to four in the bottom of the first inning. * Kirsti Merritt: The Lake Panasoffkee, Fla., native gave UF a commanding 7-0 advantage in the bottom of the sixth inning when she hit her ninth homer of the season. NOTABLES * Florida has now thrown a shutout in all four of its postseason games this year, covering 29 innings. * Dating back to the start of the 2014 NCAA Tournament, the Gators are 14-1 with 12 shutouts in the postseason; four different pitchers have recorded a shutout during that span (Delanie Gourley, Haeger, Aleshia Ocasio, Hannah Rogers). * Stewart and DeWitt each recorded a hit, giving them a team-high six for the tournament. * Stewart now has an 15-game hitting streak in the NCAA Tournament dating back to the start of the 2014 tournament, while DeWitt has a career-best six-game strand. * Haeger recorded her first postseason home run since Game 2 of the 2014 Super Regional against Washington (5/25/14). * The senior now has 68 career home runs and 68 career wins; she is the only player in Division I history to post 60+ in each category. * The Arizona native tossed her third two-hit shutout against the Wildcats this season. * Overall, the senior has thrown 22.2 consecutive scoreless innings against UK dating back to April 13, 2013, covering four games. She has allowed a total of six hits during those outings. * The senior threw her third shutout of this postseason - she has recorded 22.0 consecutive scoreless frames during that span while allowing seven hits, striking out 19 batters and walking just two. * As a team, the Gators have thrown 29.0 shutout innings during the NCAA Tournament, yielding eight hits with 36 strikeouts against three walks. UP NEXT The Super Regional concludes Sunday with Game 2 at noon (all times Eastern) and Game 3 (if necessary) at 3 p.m. ESPN will televise the action with Mark Neely (play-by-play) and former Arizona All-American Jenny Dalton-Hill (analysis) on the call. Florida Sports Talk<http://mgmt.firststreaming.com/listen/player.php?callsign=WMOP_AM> will have the radio broadcast with Adam Schick (play-by-play) and former Gator All-American Megan Bush as the announce team. In addition, live stats will be available through Gametracker via the GatorZone.com schedule page<http://www.gatorzone.com/schedule.php?sport=softb>.