Gator Softball Blanks NC State
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The No. 6/8 Gator Softball team ran its winning streak to six games with a 10-0 victory over NC State on Saturday (April 12) at Katie Seashole Pressly Softball Stadium. Senior Hannah Rogers (Lake Wales, Fla.) pitched four innings of two-hit ball with one walk and three strikeouts to earn the victory for Florida (37-8). Briana Little (Middleburg, Fla.) and Lauren Haeger (Peoria, Ariz.) both drove in three runs, while Kirsti Merritt (Lake Panasoffkee, Fla.) crossed home plate three times to lead UF to its 29th win in 30 nonconference games this season.
Rogers (18-6) set the Wolfpack down in order in the top of the first. Kelsey Stewart (Wichita, Kan.) led off the bottom of the inning with a bunt single before Merritt was hit by a pitch. Haeger followed with a two-run double to left-center to put the Gators on the scoreboard. Taylor Schwarz (Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.) continued the hit parade when she lined a single to right to set up a three-run home run to center by Little that made the score 5-0.
Florida’s senior hurler worked around a leadoff walk in the second. Once the Wolfpack were retired, Merritt led off the bottom of the frame with a base hit up the middle and then stole second. This set the stage for Schwarz, who smacked an RBI single through the right side to score Merritt for UF’s sixth run.
Rogers hit a batter with two outs in the third, but she stranded the runner on a flyout to end the inning. Florida went down in order in the bottom of the frame. The Wolfpack hit back-to-back singles to start the fourth, but Rogers stymied the rally with a double play and a strikeout.
The Orange and Blue added four more runs in the fourth. Merritt hit a leadoff triple to center, and then came home two batters later on Haeger’s single up the middle that increased the lead to 7-0. Following walks to Schwarz and Little, pinch-hitter Taylore Fuller (Trenton, Fla.) reached on an error to score Schwarz and pinch-runner Jessica Damico (Gray Summit, Mo.), who entered for Haeger. Florida’s final run of the day came on an RBI groundout by pinch-hitter Justine McLean (Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.) that allowed Little to score.
Haeger went to the circle for the final inning, inducing a popout and striking out the last two NC State hitters to wrap up the Gators’ 10-0 win.
· Florida earned its first win over NC State in three tries in Gainesville.
· The Gators improved to 4-1 against opponents from the Atlantic Coast Conference in 2014.
· Little’s home run was her first since Feb. 22 against Indiana, a span of 19 games.
· The outfielder set a season-high with three RBI.
· The junior also recorded her first multi-RBI game since the Feb. 22 contest against the Hoosiers.
· Schwarz recorded her seventh multi-hit game of the season, and her first since March 16 at LSU.
· Aubree Munro (Brea, Calif.) doubled to left in the first inning; she has five doubles in her last eight games, and her 10 doubles on the season lead the team.
· Haeger drove in multiple runs for the 11th time this season (ranks 3rd on team) and the first time since March 16 at LSU.
· Merritt’s triple was her second of the season and her first since Feb. 7 vs. Wisconsin at the USF Wilson-DeMarini Tournament in Tampa.
· Stewart’s leadoff single extended her reached-base streak in nonconference games to 30 contests; the sophomore has reached base in every non-SEC game this season.
Head Coach Tim Walton
On the offensive production throughout the Gator lineup:
“It’s huge, when you look at the number of hits that the middle of our lineup had. We’ve had Lauren Haeger batting in the No. 3 or No. 4 hole almost her whole career, and we expect big things from her. Briana has been steady, and she’s been working hard. She’s finally separated herself a little bit more from some of the other outfielders, especially since we’re giving her opportunities. She’s coming in and playing the game the right way, and playing hard.”
On the pitching staff throwing a one-hit shutout on Friday and a two-hit shutout on Saturday:
“When you can go out there and feel good about executing pitches to great locations, it makes the whole team feel better. When you throw a curveball and it’s supposed to be on the outer half, and you throw it on the outer half for strike three or a weak groundball, it builds confidence. Everybody has a strong understanding of where their pitches are going and what the sequence is going to be. It makes you feel good.”
On what the Gators need to do to maintain their winning streak when play resumes on Friday at Texas A&M:
“We’ve just got to play the game the right way. We’re going to take a little bit of a break from games for a bit to get focused on schoolwork and our bodies and dealing with those challenges. We’re not going to do a whole lot of crazy things—just come out, get ourselves in shape and try to make a great team run here at the end.”
Junior OF Briana Little
On her home run that gave the team momentum:
“I just went up there looking for a good pitch. I saw what I wanted and I just swung.”
On her mindset coming into the game:
“I just came ready to play today. Whether I was playing or not, I was ready. I was going to get a hit, that’s what I planned on doing.”
On feeling more confident at the plate:
“With more at-bats, that brings more confidence. I just felt really confident today. I was just going to keep swinging the bat hard and looking for good pitches.”
On the team’s six-game win streak:
“I felt really faithful in my team; no matter what, we were going to come back. We are never going to sit down and take it, we are always going to come back harder and have more intensity the next game.”
Sophomore OF Kristi Merritt
On her performance today:
“For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been really working on my swing, and it’s really been good. The confidence I’m having is carrying over in the game.”
On pulling within five runs of Stewart for the team lead:
“Those aren’t the things that I look at. I talked about this with Kelsey. [I told her] ‘When we get on deck, it’s me and you. We slap hands and then it’s me and you.’ If she gets on I want to score every time.”
On what the team needs to improve before play resumes on Friday:
“We need to work on conditioning. We are going to come out, condition and hit; maybe we will get some fly balls from the managers. Just come out here and work hard, even on our off days.”
On Florida’s performance during the past week:
“It gives you confidence. Whatever team you’re coming up against, you play them like any other team. Just going out there and hitting and playing defense the same. Going out there and being able to hit with runners in scoring position is really boosting our confidence.”
On the six-game winning streak:
“When we went through that little [losing] spurt it brought us down, but we didn’t let it bring us down too much. Going into Texas A&M with six wins [in a row] is going to be really good.”
FOLLOW THE GATORS
The Gators return to SEC play next weekend, when they visit Texas A&M for a three-game series. First pitch for the series opener is scheduled for 8 p.m. ET on Friday (April 18) at the Aggie Softball Complex, with a live television broadcast on ESPNU. Radio coverage will be provided on ESPN 850, with Adam Schick and former Gator All-American Megan Bush on the call. Live stats will be accessible through Texas A&M’s Website.
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