Special to GC
Gainesville, Fla. – The No. 3-ranked University of Florida softball team defeated South Carolina, 10-2 (6 innings), on Friday night at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium. Seniors Bailey Castro and Lauren Haeger had a combined four hits with three home runs and seven RBI on the night as Florida (34-4, 6-4 Southeastern Conference) scored in double-digits for the third time in SEC play. In the circle, Haeger held the Gamecocks to two runs on four hits with one walk and six strikeouts in a complete-game effort to improve to 16-0 on the season.
South Carolina (26-13, 2-8 SEC) took a 2-0 lead in the third inning as a single and a walk led to a two-run base hit up the middle. The Gators responded with three runs in the home half. Haeger reached on a fielder’s choice with one out to score Nicole DeWitt from third base before Castro launched a two-run home run to straightaway center field.
The Orange and Blue extended their lead in the fifth. Kirsti Merritt was hit by a pitch to lead off and later came home on a sacrifice fly by Taylore Fuller. Haeger followed Merritt with a single before Castro walked, and Aubree Munro ran the score to 6-2 on a two-run double down the left-field line.
Florida won the game in the sixth with four runs on back-to-back home runs by Haeger and Castro. Kelsey Stewart singled to lead off the inning and Kayli Kvistad walked to set up Haeger’s three run shot down the left-field line before Castro sealed the 10-2 victory with a solo shot to left.
STARS OF THE GAME
* Bailey Castro: The senior’s two-run home run gave Florida the lead in the third, and her solo shot in the sixth ended the game.
* Lauren Haeger: The right-hander pitched a complete game and helped her own cause with a three-run home run in the sixth inning.
* Aubree Munro: The third-year catcher provided two insurance runs with her fifth-inning double.
* The Gators earned their sixth come-from-behind win of the season. Three of Florida’s last five wins have come after UF trailed.
* The sixth-inning home runs from Haeger and Castro marked the second time this season Florida has hit back-to-back homers. Both occasions have featured the two seniors (also: Feb. 21 vs. Illinois State).
* Castro’s home runs gave her nine on the year, tying Fuller for second on the team (Haeger – 10).
* The blast marked the senior’s first homer this year against SEC opponents.
* The Pembroke Pines, Fla., native now has a team-best eight game-winning RBI on the season.
* The outfielder notched her first three-RBI game of the year.
* Haeger’s three-run home run was the 62nd of her career, bringing her to within three of former All-American Megan Bush for the UF career record.
* The Arizona native has earned the win in Game 1 of each of Florida’s four SEC series.
* Merritt’s two-out double in the first was her seventh of the season, giving the junior sole possession of second place on the team (Stewart – 12).
* The Lake Panasoffkee, Fla., native recorded her second two-base hit of league play, becoming the first Gator this year with multiple doubles against SEC opponents.
* The double also extended Merritt’s season-long hitting streak to seven games, one shy of her career high.
* The outfielder was hit by two pitches to bring her season total to 26 and her career mark to 48, extending her school records in both categories.
* Munro hit her first double of the season; the Brea, Calif., native tied for the team lead with 14 two-baggers last year.
* The catcher recorded her second multi-RBI game of the year (also: Feb. 14 vs. Iowa – 3).
* Stewart’s stolen base in the sixth was the 89th of her career, extended her school record.
On the big night for the Gator offense, led by Castro and Haeger:
“I’m really happy with the way we swung the bat. I thought we did a good job in some counts to fight pitches off. Bailey really set the tone after we were down 2-0 to take the lead back quickly.”
On Haeger’s performance to give Florida a win in the series opener:
“It’s very needed when you can get a senior who’s been through it and who’s got good enough stuff to win games in this league. It’s vital to our success to have a pitching staff, and not just a good pitcher.”
On Saturday’s doubleheader:
“We’ll take the first game and try to put our best team on the field to get a ‘W.’ Overall, I really like the way some of our younger players are playing. Our older players are starting to play better. There are things we’ve got to improve on, but I really like the overall complement that each one of our hitters is giving to each other.”
- Florida Head Coach Tim Walton
FLORIDA PLAYER QUOTES
Senior OF Bailey Castro
On her two home runs:
“It felt nice. It felt good to have a solid swing and a good pitch. I knew the first one was going out for sure from the way it came off the bat. The second one I was just trying to battle a full count and just blast it out.”
On her mentality at the plate:
“I think it’s just us working; we work for singles, and if it happens to score a run then it’s a run. We’re just really focusing on our mentality and just trying to hit the ball.”
Senior RHP/1B Lauren Haeger
On her mindset in the circle after South Carolina put two runs on the board in the third inning:
“I think it was more frustrating than anything. I was hitting my spots but kept getting jam shots. You just have to bounce back and relax.”
On breaking her 10-game home-run drought:
“[It feels] really good. I finally hit a good swing on a ball – it felt so good. It’s a relief. But I’m just going to go up there and think [about hitting] line drives. The home runs will come.”
The UF-USC series concludes with a doubleheader on Saturday beginning at 1 p.m. EDT. Live streaming will be available through participating TV providers on SEC Network+<http://secsports.go.com/watch> via WatchESPN, while WGGG (1230-AM)<http://www.floridasportstalk.fm/> will have the radio broadcast. In addition, live stats links can be found on the schedule page<http://www.gatorzone.com/schedule.php?sport=softb> on GatorZone.com.