Special to GC
Gainesville, Fla. – The No. 1-ranked Gator Softball team defeated No. 10 Florida State, 5-0, on Wednesday night at Katie Seashole Presley Stadium. Senior right-hander Lauren Haeger ran her 2015 winning streak to 21 games as she allowed four hits and recorded four strikeouts over five innings. With the win, Florida (44-4) will complete the regular season with a 31-0 record in nonconference games.
Florida jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first when Nicole DeWitt was hit by a pitch before advancing to third on a Kirsti Merritt single and a wild pitch. The freshman then scored the game’s first run on an RBI groundout to second by Haeger.
The Gators built on their lead in the third, adding two runs on a Haeger single through the left side after DeWitt beat out an infield single and Merritt reached on a fielder’s choice. UF ran its advantage to 5-0 in the fifth. Justine McLean led off with a walk before Kelsey Stewart and DeWitt singled. McLean came home on a passed ball and Stewart scored on Merritt’s sacrifice bunt.
Aleshia Ocasio relieved Haeger for the sixth inning, and finished off the shutout with three strikeouts and one walk over two hitless innings.
STARS OF THE GAME
* Lauren Haeger: Florida’s senior right-hander improved to 21-0 on the season and drove in three runs to extend her school record for career RBI to 244.
* Nicole DeWitt: The California native had two or more hits for the fourth time in eight games dating back to April 8.
* Kirsti Merritt: The center fielder logged her first career RBI in six games against FSU.
* Florida swept the season series from Florida State for the fifth time in the last six years in which the teams have met twice (also: 2007, 2008, 2010, 2013 – teams met just once in 2009, 2011, 2012).
* The Gators now lead the all-time series, 21-14.
* Florida is 15-3 against FSU under Head Coach Tim Walton.
* UF now leads FSU by a 10-7 margin in Gainesville.
* Haeger’s first-inning RBI marked the first of her career against FSU.
* The senior drove in three or more runs for the 10th time this year.
* The Arizona native leads the Gators with 15 multi-RBI games.
* DeWitt scored multiple runs for the second time in three games and the fifth time this year.
* The freshman posted her seventh multi-hit game.
* In two games against FSU this year, DeWitt is 5-for-5 with three runs scored, two doubles and an RBI.
* Stewart extended her hitting streak to 15 games dating back to March 27 with an infield single in the fifth.
* Merritt stole a base for the second straight game; the junior has swiped a bag in back-to-back contests on three separate occasions this year, including a four-game streak from Feb. 21-25.
On DeWitt’s strong play against FSU and in general:
“She’s had some nice at-bats over the last few weeks. She has really embraced that 2 position [in the lineup]. When Kelsey [Stewart] gets on, we have a good chance to get her over at least – or Nicole gets a big hit when Kelsey didn’t get on. Give her a lot of credit. I think she’s really done a nice job in a complementary role, but sometimes she’s had the role. She’s set the table nicely.”
On the Gators’ undefeated record in nonconference play:
“The first credit you have to give is to [Assistant Coach] Jen Rocha to be able to put together all the scouting reports and game plans for pitch-calling and opponents and put us in a good position with spray charts. The first credit goes to her and our coaches to prepare. After the preparation, you’ve got to give the players credit to come every day ready to go. I don’t think we’ve ever taken a day where we’ve overlooked our opponent. We have played good softball, even when we weren’t at our best because of our opponent or because of us. We still found a way to win and have quality at-bats. Even tonight, we had some little base hits or groundballs – we were still scoring runs. That’s a credit to our players buying into [the idea that] whenever you have opportunities, you have to deliver.”
On the final home series of the regular season this weekend against Texas A&M:
“I told our players yesterday that our main focus is not on the SEC [title] – our main focus is to try to win every at-bat, every inning and ultimately the game. We’re going to take no different approach on Senior Weekend. It’s an opportunity to reflect on each of our six seniors’ careers. They’ve all meant a lot to us, whether it’s in the game, in practice, in the classroom or on the road. In their own way, they’re all special people to our program. They’re all part of a national championship. Even though they’re graduating, they’ll never be lost from the record books and the memories of our program and what we’ve built here.”
- Florida Head Coach Tim Walton
FLORIDA PLAYER QUOTES
Freshman IF Nicole DeWitt
On playing against FSU at home for the first time in her career:
“It was pretty cool, seeing all the fans here. There are so many people here, and it’s always great to beat the in-state rival.”
On getting a hit in five straight against the Seminoles:
“No one expects it, but I’m always trying to get on base, always trying to help my team out. I just go out there and do what I can do.”
On reading Seminole pitcher Lacey Waldrop’s pitches:
“She’s a pretty good pitcher. She has good speed and mixes in pitches pretty well, but I was just seeing the ball really well tonight and that just helped to my advantage.”
Senior RHP/1B Lauren Haeger
On beating in-state rival FSU:
“It’s always nice to beat Florida State. They’re a great team [and] they’re ranked in the top 10. It’s always a great game – there’s always a lot of people here. It’s a great atmosphere to play in, and I guess it’s just great to be a Florida Gator on nights like this.”
“Lacey Waldrop is probably the best against me. That was my first hit against her. She’s awesome. She’s a great pitcher. We just had a great plan and we stuck with it.”
On UF’s offensive mentality tonight:
“Our plan was definitely to just keep it short and try to stay up the middle. [Waldrop] throws off-speeds, she throws drops, she throws a rise – she throws everything. She keeps you on your toes, so you have to stay short.”
Junior OF Kirsti Merritt
“She’s always a tough opponent to face, so we had to make a couple adjustments. You can see that they were made, and that rolled over into the game which is really good. You practice that, you think about it and you watch video, and it just rolls into the game.”
On the Gators’ ability to score without home runs:
“We’re a home run-hitting team, but we’re not a home run-hitting team. It was good to see us produce runs without the big hits. We like to say that with runners in scoring position, just get it done. Even if we get out, we still got the run. That’s exactly what Lauren did.”
No. 1 Florida will open its final home series of the regular season Friday at 6 p.m. ET, when the Gators host No. 25 Texas A&M. The contest will air on SEC Network+ through participating TV providers only via WatchESPN. Florida Sports Talk<http://www.floridasportstalk.fm/> will have the radio broadcast with Adam Schick (play-by-play) and former Gator All-American Megan Bush (analysis) on the call. In addition, a live stats link can be found on the schedule page<http://www.gatorzone.com/schedule.php?sport=softb> on GatorZone.com.