Special to GC
Gainesville, Fla. – The No. 3-ranked University of Florida softball team won its fourth consecutive Southeastern Conference series on Sunday with a 6-3 victory over No. 13 Kentucky at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium. SeniorLauren Haeger tied the Florida and SEC career home run records with her three-run blast in during the Gators’ six-run fourth inning. Aleshia Ocasio earned the win after allowing three runs on three earned runs on three hits over six innings, improving her record to 13-3 on the season.
Kentucky opened the scoring with a two-run home run following a leadoff walk in the third inning. Florida responded with six runs during a two-out rally in the bottom of the fourth. Aubree Munro and Kathlyn Medinadrew walks to bring up Kelsey Stewart, who singled to load the bases. Nicole DeWitt then singled through the left side to score Munro before the Gators (39-4, 10-4 SEC) took the lead on a two-run base hit by Kirsti Merritt. That brought up Haeger, who launched a three-run home run to left field to raise the Florida advantage to 6-2.
The Wildcats (27-13, 4-10 SEC) got one run back in the sixth with a solo home run to left. Delanie Gourleyreplaced Ocasio in the circle for the seventh, recording two strikeouts during a perfect frame to save the series clinching-win for Florida.
STARS OF THE GAME
- Lauren Haeger: The senior’s home run was her sixth three-run shot of the season and her eighth two-out homer, both of which lead the team.
- Nicole DeWitt: The first-year utility player reached base in all four of her plate appearances, scoring once and driving in a run.
- Kirsti Merritt: Florida’s center fielder knocked in her first game-winning RBI of the year with her two-run single.
- Haeger’s home run was the 65th of her career, tying former All-American Megan Bush for the Gator and SEC records.
- The senior has four home runs in her last six games.
- DeWitt doubled in the third inning, marking her third two-base hit in three games.
- The freshman now has seven doubles on the season, which ranks third on the team and leads all first-year Gators.
- The Garden Grove, Calif., native had three hits, marking her third three-hit game and her fifth multi-hit contest.
- DeWitt’s trio of three-hit games leads the team.
- Gourley recorded her first save of the season and the third of her career.
- Merritt was hit by a pitch in the third, extending her school records for a season (27) and a career (49).
- Florida allowed two home runs on Sunday, marking the second time this season an opponent has hit multiple homers against the Gators (also: 2/14 vs. NC State).
- In contrast, the Gators have 17 multi-homer games.
On Sunday’s series-clinching win:
“Every win is a big win, especially when you have different players stepping up and doing different things. I’m very happy with the way we came back after being down 2-zip. It says a lot, being able to score six runs with two outs.”
On Haeger tying the UF and SEC career home run records:
“She has progressed well to be both a hitter and a pitcher and take her role seriously. We count heavily on her offense, and this year we’re counting heavily on her offense and her pitching. She has stepped up. To tie the home run record is a wonderful career accomplishment, not only for her but for her teammates to be a part of something like that. It takes everybody to be successful.”
On Monday’s Game 3:
“We have a lot of work ahead of us. [Kentucky’s] Kelsey Nunley is a really good pitcher, and she doesn’t make a whole lot of mistakes. When she does, we need to capitalize on them. We’ve got to put balls in play [and] try to hit the ball away from [UK shortstop Christian] Stokes. I think that will help us a lot. I’d like to see us come out and be able to spray the ball around the whole ballpark, hit changeups when we have to, hit the screwball, hit the rise-ball and use the whole field.”
— Florida Head Coach Tim Walton
FLORIDA PLAYER QUOTES
Freshman IF Nicole DeWitt
On the Gators’ approach at the plate:
“We just wanted to get on base, get hits, score runs, [and] keep it simple.”
On Florida’s six-run fourth inning:
“We were finding the holes, getting balls through the infield, and then Lauren [Haeger] came up with the big hit.”
Senior RHP/1B Lauren Haeger
On her approach at the plate before her home run:
“I just decided I needed to make an adjustment to fix my swing a little bit. I didn’t feel comfortable and I decided to make an adjustment, and it worked for me. Hitting is all about making adjustments and every single time you go up there you could either strikeout or hit a home run. It’s just how you react.”
On tying the UF and SEC home run record at 65:
“That’s exciting. Megan Bush was talking to me about it yesterday. It’s exciting [because] I’ve worked really hard. I can’t believe I’m a senior and that it’s already here. I worked really hard for it and it’s really cool.”
Freshman UT Aleshia Ocasio
On her pitching against Kentucky:
“I was just mixing up my pitches. Honestly, our offense did great today. We battled, and we won the game. So, I thought our offense did really [well] and our defense played well too.”
On pitching with a four-run cushion after Florida’s six-run fourth inning:
“I would never say pitching is easy – you still have to take it pitch-by-pitch and come 100 percent every pitch. I came and battled.”
The Florida-Kentucky series concludes on Monday at 7 p.m. ET. The game will be televised on the SEC Network, with Adam Amin (play-by-play) and Amanda Scarborough (analysis) on the call. In addition, live streaming will be available through participating TV providers only via WatchESPN. WGGG (1230-AM) will have the radio broadcast with Corey Brooks (play-by-play) and former Gator All-American Megan Bush (analysis) as the announce team. In addition, a live stats link can be found on the schedule page on GatorZone.com.