Medina comes up clutch for Gators

In a back-and-forth battle in the NCAA Softball Gainesville Super Regional opener, the No. 2 Gators (56-7) used a sophomore Katie Medina (Downey, Calif.) walk-off RBI single in the bottom of the seventh for the win, as Florida took a 4-3 decision over UAB (40-18) in front of 1,691 at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium to inch one game closer to its fifth Women’s College World Series appearance.

The Gators entered the bottom of the seventh down, 3-2, and rallied as they’ve done all season, first taking advantage of two straight walks and a hit by pitch to load the bases before sophomore Briana Little (Middleburg, Fla.) was pegged with a relief pitcher Leigh Streetman offering for the equalizer, 3-3. Following a Gator strikeout for one down, Medina dropped a 0-1 Streetman offering in shallow left field over the UAB shortstop’s head to plate the game-winning run in walk-off fashion, UF’s sixth walk off of 2013.

For Medina, the clutch hit was her first game-winner for the Gators this season, joining 11 other teammates who have clinched a victory for the Orange and Blue in 2013 by knocking in the game-winning RBI.

The Gators and Blazers will meet again at noon Sunday on ESPN, with Jeanne Zelasko and Cheri Kempf on the call, as Florida will look to clinch its fifth Super Regional for the right to head to Oklahoma City for what would be the fifth time in the last six years. The ‘if necessary’game is scheduled for 3 p.m. should UAB even the series at noon.

Florida’s come-back-win Saturday marked its 21st come from behind, after Florida trailed heading into the bottom of both the fifth and seventh innings. The Gators took advantage of six walks and four hit by pitches, while freshman second baseman Kelsey Stewart (Wichita, Kan.) swiped two bags for 36 on the year to improve her single-season school record. Little’s RBI hit by pitch in the bottom of the seventh extended her single-season HBP record to 19.

Junior ace Hannah Rogers (Lake Wales, Fla.) got it done in the circle for the Gators Saturday (7.0 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 4 BB, 4 K) to improve to 32-5. Rogers started the game with a strikeout and retired the Blazers in order in the third and fourth innings en route to her 96th career victory at Florida.

After a scoreless first frame for both squads, UAB jumped out to a 1-0 lead on an unearned run in the top of the second after an uncharacteristic Gator error that allowed the Blazers’ leadoff runner to scamper home for the 1-0 advantage. Florida evened things up, though, in the bottom of the third on a junior Stephanie Tofft (Lincoln, Calif.) RBI single that plated Stewart from second for a 1-1 ballgame.

A feisty Blazers squad used a Whitney Fletcher RBI single to right field in the top of the fifth to capitalize on two straight two-out hits for UAB, as Fletcher’s base hit put the Blazers ahead for the second time Saturday, this time 2-1.

Again, Florida battled back, evening things in the home half of the fifth stanza, courtesy of a senior Kelsey Horton (Valrico, Fla.) bases-loaded hit by pitch. A Gator two-out rally juiced the bags after a freshman Kirsti Merritt (Lake Panasoffkee, Fla.) hit by pitch, followed by Tofft’s second hit of the day and sophomore Lauren Haeger’s (Peoria, Ariz.) infield single. Horton plated Merritt for a 2-2 game, but a groundout next retired the side before UF could take advantage of the situation.

The Gators put the pressure on again in the bottom of the sixth after a leadoff walk from Little, followed by a freshman Taylore Fuller (Trenton, Fla.) single through the left side as Florida chased starter Lannah Campbell (5.0 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 3 BB, 8 K) from the circle in favor of Streetman. Sophomore pinch hitter Bailey Castro (Pembroke Pines, Fla.) walked to load the bases, but Streetman was effective with a fielder’s choice to eliminate UF’s lead runner, followed by two of her three strikeouts on the afternoon to halt the threat.

UAB then worked to regain the lead in the top of the seventh after a two-out rally of its own when Kristen McGrath sent a ball over Medina at shortstop with runners on first and second for the 3-2 Blazers lead. UF didn’t buckle under the pressure in the final half inning of regulation, instead the Gators buckled down, milking Streetman for four straight free passes in the bottom of the seventh in form of two walks, and two HBP to tie the game before Medina’s one-out walk-off heroics for the 4-3 Florida win.

Streetman (1.1 IP, 1 H, 2 ER, 3 BB, 3 K) earned the decision in the circle for the Blazers, moving to 13-8 on the season. Six different Gator bats came alive Saturday, paced by Tofft’s 2-for-4 performance. Likewise, six different Blazers found the hits column.

Courtesy of UF Communications