Softball loses, sets up sunday rubber match

No. 3 Florida came up on the short end of a second straight extra-innings softball contest with No. 6/7 Tennessee as the Lady Vols used a 3-1, eight-inning win to even the series between the two league foes at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium in front of a crowd of 1,019 Saturday.

Tennessee (23-5, 3-2 SEC) used two RBI doubles in the top of the eighth inning to break a 1-1 tie and go ahead of Florida (26-3, 3-2 SEC), 3-1, for good. The Orange and Blue move to 2-2 in extra-inning games this season and 5-2 against top-25 opponents.

The two clubs will meet Sunday on St. Patrick’s Day in the series finale at 1 p.m, the third straight televised broadcast of the weekend. The first 500 fans at KSP will receive a green freezer mug, and all fans will be able to visit the St. Patrick’s Day Corner to take pictures and learn Irish dance to celebrate the holiday.

Sophomore Lauren Haeger (Peoria, Ariz.) earned the start in the circle for the Gators, while the righty also accounted for UF’s one run on the day, thanks to her team-leading eighth long ball of the year in the bottom of the fourth. Haeger moved to 7-1 in the circle this season with UT’s victory after working the first 7.2 innings with six strikeouts, while giving up four walks, six hits and three runs to the Lady Vols before classmate Alyssa Bache (Clearwater, Fla.) came on for the final out in the eighth.

Haeger retired Tennessee in order in the second, fourth, sixth and seventh after settling in to keep the game close until the end.

Tennessee junior hurler Ellen Renfroe went the distance for the Vols, holding the Gators to just three hits and Haeger’s solo bomb, while striking with 14 Ks on the afternoon to improve to 8-1 in the circle.

Junior Stephanie Tofft (Lincoln, Calif.) and sophomore Taylor Schwarz (Palm Beach, Fla.) connected for the Gators’ other two hits on the afternoon, Schwarz with a hard-hit leadoff single down the left-field line in the fifth and Tofft with a one-out double in the bottom of the seventh that served as the start of a bases-loaded situation for the Orange and Blue.

UT struck with the first run of the morning on a Melissa Brown RBI single in the first, and it wasn’t until the fourth that Haeger blasted her solo homer to right center to tie the ballgame up at 1-1.

After stellar defense from both squads through the fifth and sixth, the Gators put together a rally in the bottom of the seventh, started by Tofft’s one-out double to left. Schwarz then found herself on base again after getting hit by a pitch – UF’s 39th of the season – for runners on first and second, one out. Renfroe fanned her 13th batter of the day for out number two before sophomore pinch hitter Bailey Castro (Pembroke Pines, Fla.) drew a two-out walk to juice the bags and turn over the Florida lineup. A pop up ended the Gator threat and forced extras for the third straight time between Florida and Tennessee – the second this weekend.

Following Tennessee’s two-run, three-hit eighth that pulled the Vols ahead, 3-1, Renfroe retired the Gators in order via groundout, pop up and her 14th and final strikeout of the day to give UT the series-evening win.

Cheyanne Tarango led the Vols at the plate with a 3-for-4 performance, including the first of two RBI doubles in the eighth as UT snapped a seven-game losing skid in Gainesville for the program’s sixth-ever win at KSP.

Courtesy of UF Communications