Gators softball wraps weekend sweep

The No. 5 Florida softball team picked up two wins Sunday over UNC Wilmington and Charleston Southern to complete an undefeated weekend in the 2013 Lipton Invitational at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium. The Gators (12-0) first downed the Seahawks, 9-1, in six innings before topping the Buccaneers, 4-3, for their first extra-innings victory of the season.

The Gators are out to a 12-0 start for the second time in the last three seasons and will look to extend the streak with tournament play at the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic next weekend in Palm Springs. A total of 26 extra-base hits highlighted the weekend for Florida as the Gators posted four run-rule wins, four shutouts and capped the Lipton Invite off with an eight-inning thriller Sunday over a feisty and competitive Charleston Southern squad.

Florida’s three-woman pitching triumvirate of Alyssa Bache (10.0 IP, 0 ER, 3 H, 14 K, 1 BB), Hannah Rogers (15.0 IP, 1 ER, 9 H, 13 K, 5 BB) and Lauren Haeger (11.0 IP, 1 ER, 5 H, 15 K, 5 BB) allowed just four runs throughout the duration of the tournament, while the Florida offense posted 54 runs during the six weekend games. As a team, UF batted .338, had a .676 slugging percentage and .464 on-base mark throughout its Lipton Invite schedule.

Six Gators batted over .400 on the weekend, highlighted by Haeger, who went 4-for-7 (.467) with two doubles and two homers, including the equalizer in the bottom of the seventh to force extras Sunday against Charleston Southern.

A series of illegal pitches for CSU hurler Jennifer Giles in the sixth frame made things interesting in the final game of the Lipton Invite. Giles’ setbacks put the Gators within striking distance after the Orange and Blue faced a 3-0 deficit heading to the bottom of the inning.

With just two hits apiece and zeros on the board in the runs column for both teams after the fifth, a Marci Christian RBI double put up the first run for the Buccaneers in the top half of the sixth before two costly Gator errors allowed two more CSU runs to cross for the 3-0 Charleston Southern lead heading to the home half of the stanza.

UF capitalized on Giles’ illegal pitches when both Schwarz, running for Haeger, and senior Kelsey Horton (Valrico, Fla.) moved around the bases and crossed home as a result of the IP calls to narrow the CSU lead, 3-2, entering the final inning. Rogers allowed just one hit in the top of the seventh and forced three groundouts to retire the side before setting up Haeger’s two-out game-tying jack off relief pitcher Linzy Rother in the bottom of the seventh that forced extras.

With the international tie-breaker rule in effect, CSU’s Lizzy Olmstead started the eighth on second and moved to third on a sac bunt before Rogers forced two straight groundouts to limit CSU from adding to its tally. In the home half of the eighth, sophomore Bailey Castro (Pembroke Pines, Fla.) was placed on second, moved to third on a Horton sac bunt, and crossed home on a sophomore Jessica Damico (Gray Summit, Mo.) RBI double to right center that plated the game-winning run for the Orange and Blue.

A freshman Kelsey Stewart (Wichita, Kan.) base hit in the bottom of the third counted as UF’s first hit against the Buccaneers, and a one-out Aubree Munro (Brea, Calif.) double added a hit to the tally in the second, but the Gators were unable to capitalize until the momentum swing in the sixth.

Both Florida and Charleston Southern had five-hit performances in the final game of the tournament, as Christian went 2-for-4 against the Gators with a RBI. Rogers picked up her fifth win of the season in the circle.

In the first of Florida’s two games Sunday against UNC Wilmington, Horton and Damico each blasted their second home runs of the season and Stewart delivered three hits against the Seahawks as Haeger moved to 4-0 on the season in the circle after tossing a six-inning complete game to help lift the Gators to a 9-1 victory in the early matinee.

After UNC-Wilmington opened the scoring in the second inning with a Jordan Critcher home run off the top of the left field wall, the Gators quickly answered in the bottom of the frame. After a leadoff walk for Castro, Horton launched a long ball over the left field wall to give the Orange and Blue a 2-1 advantage. Damico and Ensley Gammel (Bakersfield, Calif.) next earned free passes and stole their way into scoring position before Katie Medina (Downey, Calif.) poked a two-run single just inside the right field line to extend the lead to 4-1.

Florida tacked on two more in the fourth on a leadoff bomb to center by Damico and a RBI double from Stewart and then ended the game in the sixth after Medina lined an opposite field RBI double followed by a Munro two-bagger and Stewart RBI base hit to invoke the run-rule.

Meanwhile, Haeger settled down after the early run and conceded only one hit in the final four stanzas, keeping the Seahawks at bay.

UNCW southpaw Casey Rowland pitched fell to 2-2 on the season, pitching all 5.1 innings.

The Orange and Blue will now head west to California for the 2013 Mary Nutter Classic in Palm Springs. Four Gators hail from California and will have the chance to play in front of a home crowd as UF takes on Loyola Marymount (2/21), Oklahoma State (2/21), Syracuse (2/22), No. 7/8 Missouri (2/22) and No. 24 Georgia Tech (2/23) at the three-day classic in the dessert next weekend.

Courtesy of UF Communications