Gators softball stays unbeaten

Florida softball used two wins over Loyola Marymount and Oklahoma State Thursday at the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic in Palm Springs to improve its record this season to an undefeated 14-0. The Gators first downed LMU, 8-2, at the Big League Dreams Sports Complex’s ‘Wrigley Field’ before topping OSU, 2-0, in the second and final contest of the day for the Orange and Blue.

Gator hurlers Hannah Rogers (Lake Wales, Fla.) and Lauren Haeger (Peoria, Ariz.) each earned wins for UF in the circle, Rogers against Loyola Marymount and Haeger against the Cowgirls in game two. Rogers moved to 6-0 on the season with a four strikeout, complete-game effort against the Lions (3-3), while Haeger (5-0) used a four-hit shutout and eight strikeouts to add her fifth victory of the season in the circle against Oklahoma State.

Senior Kelsey Horton (Valrico, Fla.) led UF at the plate Thursday, going 2-for-5 (.400) with a run, RBI, double and two walks, while nine other Gator bats connected for a hit. Freshman catcher Aubree Munro (Brea, Calif.) was 1-for-2 (.500) with a double and a walk against Loyola Marymount.

In the early game against the LMU Lions, the Gators rolled, putting up three runs each in the second and third innings before pushing two final runs across for extra insurance in the bottom of the sixth.

LMU jumped out of the gates aggressive against the Gators, scoring in the top of the first on a two-out Olivia Alvarez RBI single to right field.

The Gators found their rhythm in the second though, and back-to-back bombs by sophomores Briana Little (Middleburg, Fla.) and Katie Medina (Downey, Calif.) – her first career blast as a Gator – fueled UF’s offensive efforts to put Florida up 3-1. A bases-loaded RBI walk from Horton, followed by a two-RBI single up the middle from sophomore Jessica Damico (Gray Summit, Mo.) in the third extended the Florida lead to 6-1.

Megan Harman and Sterling Shuster started the sixth hot for the Lions, Harman with a leadoff single, followed by Shuster’s RBI double to put up LMU’s second and final run of the afternoon.

The Gators added their final two runs in the bottom of the sixth, first on a Haeger bases-loaded RBI walk, followed by a freshman Taylor Schwarz (Palm Beach, Fla.) fielder’s choice that plated classmate Kelsey Stewart (Wichita, Kan.) before Lion pitcher Molly Medeiros retired the side.

Florida faced four different LMU pitchers Thursday as Medeiros (2.1 IP) shouldered the loss (1-1), but was backed up in the circle by pitching staff members Dana Waldusky (3.0 IP), Erica Grady and Stephanie Crist (0.2 IP).

Game two between Oklahoma State (2-3) and Florida was a classic pitcher’s duel: Haeger versus Cowgirl ace Kat Espinosa. Both pitchers had nearly identical stats, Haeger with four hits, no runs, two walks and eight strikeouts and Espinosa with three hits, no runs, two walks and seven strikeouts.

UF and OSU both connected for hits early – the Gators on a Horton double in the first inning and OSU on a Tamara Brown blooper to left center in the second, but neither team could capitalize. OSU struck again in the third on a Gessenia DeLaCruz leadoff hit, while UF sophomore Bailey Castro (Pembroke Pines, Fla.) led things off with a single in the fourth for the Gators, but OSU stranded one in the third, Florida two in the fourth to continue the shootout.

In the fifth, things got interesting – after Espinosa retired leadoff Medina, OSU opted to trade their starter for Simone Freeman in the circle to switch up the look the third time through the lineup. The change didn’t faze Stewart, who connected for a one-out triple to the right-center fence. A strikeout and fly out retired the Gators, both teams still even with no runs.

Shannon Kaufman and Tarah Ettinger both hit one-out singles to left center in the top of the sixth, but Haeger added her sixth strikeout of the day and forced a groundout for the final out to prevent the Cowgirls from getting on the board.

The Gators made their move in the home half of the frame with bases loaded after a Castro walk, junior Stephanie Tofft (Lincoln, Calif.) hit and a freshman Taylore Fuller (Trenton, Fla.) hit-by-pitch. Espinosa inherited the juiced bags after OSU opted to re-enter their starting pitcher. An Ensley Gammel (Bakersfield, Calif.) attempted squeeze with one out on the board first forced an OSU defensive miscue that allowed the Gators to capitalize. After eliminating Castro at home, an overthrow down to first from the Oklahoma State catcher in attempt to get Gammel allowed Tofft to work her way to third and then home, while Fuller took third and Gammel scampered to second, resulting in a 1-0 Gator lead.

Next up, Schwarz poked a RBI single through the left side to give UF its second run of the day before Espinosa forced a Stewart fly out. Haeger added her seventh and eighth strikes in the top of the seventh to give UF its 14th straight win of the season.

Freeman (1-3) was tagged with the loss as her two base runners gave UF the winning advantage.

The Gators will be back at it again Friday in the second day of Mary Nutter competition at the Big League Dreams Sports Complex against Syracuse and No. 7 Missouri.

Courtesy of UF Communications