Florida wins pitchers’ duel against Kentucky

Special to GC

Gainesville, Fla. - The No. 3-ranked University of Florida softball team defeated No. 13 Kentucky, 1-0, on Saturday at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium in front of the largest home crowd in program history. Gator senior Lauren Haeger won a pitchers' duel, allowing just two hits and one walk with four strikeouts over seven innings to run her season-opening win streak to 18 games.

Florida's offense started quickly as Kelsey Stewart led off the bottom of the first with an infield single, advancing to third on a groundout and a walk to set up a run-scoring base hit to shortstop by Taylore Fuller.

The run was enough for the Gators as Haeger bested Kentucky pitcher Kelsey Nunley. The Arizona native had help from a spotless defense that featured a diving catch in foul territory by Kathlyn Medina in the sixth and an over-the-shoulder grab by Fuller on a popup in the seventh.

STARS OF THE GAME

*         Lauren Haeger: The right-hander allowed no runs in an outing of 5.0+ innings (or 3.0+ for a five-inning game) for the ninth time this season, logging her fifth complete game in conference play.

*         Taylore Fuller: The Trenton, Fla., native drove in her 40th run of the season to extend her career high. The junior also notched her first career RBI in nine at-bats against Kentucky.

*         Kathlyn Medina: Florida's Senior CLASS Award finalist turned in another 'Web Gem' play with her putout in foul territory, and also added three assists.

NOTABLES
*         Saturday's attendance of 2,488 set a stadium record (previous: 2,443 vs. Florida State, 3/27/13).

*         Fuller's first-inning RBI was her 15th of SEC play, breaking a tie with Stewart for the team lead.

*         The Trenton, Fla., native has an RBI in four of her last five games since April 3.

*         The junior utility player recorded her seventh game-winning RBI of the year, breaking a tie with Haeger for second on the team (Bailey Castro - 8).

*         Fuller has driven in the game-winning run in five of Florida's nine SEC wins.

*         Haeger has earned the win in Game 1 of each of the Gators' five conference series.

*         The senior defeated Kentucky for the second time in her career (also: 4/28/12).

*         Stewart has scored five career runs in four games against Kentucky.

*         The junior's leadoff single extended her hitting streak to nine games dating back to March 27

*         Castro was held out of the game with flu-like symptoms.

WALTON'S WORDS
On Haeger's five consecutive wins in series openers:
"If you're going to have a chance to win series, you've got to win Game 1 in a lot of cases. She's doing what we need her to do - matching up against everybody's best. I'm happy with the way she is competing and working. She's earning those starts - it's not like we're just handing them out. She's earning them because she's coming in and pitching well."

On the support from the record crowd:
"They probably came to watch us hit home runs and see the offense get going, but they were into it. We made some nice plays on defense, and they stood up and gave a standing ovation for Katie Medina on that great play. We can't always be at our best offensively, and you've got the give the credit for that to the pitching staff and the coaching staff for the other teams - they prepare for us and get after us."

On Sunday's Game 2:
"If we face Nunley again, we're going to have to try to do a better job of hitting when we have count leverage. If she makes mistakes, which - I'll go back to the video, but I'm sure there weren't a lot of mistakes made in that game - but we've got to put runs on them early. If we put runs on somebody early, it changes the swings. You can see that clearly."
- Florida Head Coach Tim Walton

FLORIDA PLAYER QUOTES
Junior UT Taylore Fuller
On her mentality at the plate:
"Just keep it simple. My teammates did a good job getting on base. Nicole DeWitt had a crucial at-bat bringing Kelsey over to second [and] we got a couple walks. [We] just kept things simple."

On facing Kelsey Nunley:
"That's a great pitcher. She's been a great pitcher. We knew right from the start that it was going to be a 1-run or 2-run game. We knew what we were coming into, and we're looking forward to the next couple of games."

Senior RHP/1B Lauren Haeger
On her work in the circle:
"I was hitting my spots and my corners really well, getting them to chase a little out of the zone which was good. I was keeping them on their toes by showing my offside and just keeping their eyes all over the place."

On her approach to pitching in Game 1 of a series:
"I just want to come out on a Friday night or the first game and get that win. I just feel like my tempo is really good right now. My pitches are good, I'm hitting my spots, and I'm just doing the little things right. This is the best I've felt in four years. I've worked really, really hard in the bullpen this year and it's starting to pay off."

UP NEXT
The Florida-Kentucky series continues on Sunday at 3 p.m. ET. Live streaming will be available through participating television providers on SEC Network+<http://es.pn/1F2cXuv> via WatchESPN with Larry Vettel (play-by-play) and former Gator All-American Megan Bush (analysis) on the call. WGGG (1230-AM)<http://www.floridasportstalk.fm/> will have the radio broadcast with Adam Schick calling play-by-play. In addition, a live stats link 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.