Long ball leads Florida to win over South Carolina

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.


*         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


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.

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Andrew Spivey
Andrew always knew he wanted to be involved with sports in some capacity. He began by coaching high school football for six years before deciding to pursue a career in journalism. While coaching, he was a part of two state semifinal teams in the state of Alabama. Given his past coaching experience, he figured covering recruiting would be a perfect fit. He began his career as an intern for Rivals.com, covering University of Florida football recruiting. After interning with Rivals for six months, he joined the Gator Country family as a recruiting analyst. Andrew enjoys spending his free time on the golf course and watching his beloved Atlanta Braves. Follow him on Twitter at @AndrewSpiveyGC.