The Florida Gator softball team entered Wednesday night with an 11-0 record sitting as the number one team in the country. The Gators played host to the Dolphins of Jacksonville University who entered with a 5-4 record and just like the Gators were fresh off a victory.
Florida coach Tim Walton chose to go with his most dominant pitcher as of late in junior Lauren Haeger and she made sure to not disappoint. Haeger threw all seven innings for Walton and pitched a complete game shutout recording seven strikeouts as Florida remains unbeaten after a 6-0 win.
After giving up two hits in the first inning, the Dolphins could only muster that same amount of hits throughout the rest of the game. If the Dolphins got runners on base and in scoring position, the Gator defense was always able to make the right plays to get out of the inning. Florida second baseman Kelsey Stewart helped spark two double plays that saved Haeger from any jam she might have encountered.
With a stellar pitching performance and a great defensive effort, the Gators were in great shape to pick up an easy victory over the Dolphins. However, JU starting pitcher Victoria Brown made it clear right away she would not let the Gator offense who outscored their opponents 59-6 this past weekend do the same to her team.
Brown held the Gators to just one hit and one run towards the end of the third inning and it was evident that one of the top lineups in the NCAA was challenged. Despite sophomore Taylore Fuller’s home run in the third that gave the Gators their only run, Walton talked about the performance Brown put up against his team.
“She did a good job last year facing us, but she’s a good pitcher, she boasts a rise ball, a changeup, she’s solid and she came in with an ERA under one against some good teams,” Walton said.”
For anyone that has kept track of the Gators this season, a majority of their runs have come from the big hits and on Wednesday night the team showed they could produce runs by other means. While three of the Gators six runs came from the long ball, the other three came by means of some small ball tactics implemented by Walton.
After a solid infield single by first baseman Taylor Schwarz, senior Stephanie Tofft laid down a routine bunt that resulted in Schwarz scoring from first thanks to an errant throw by JU second baseman Codi Kelly. Later in the game, Fuller took an off speed pitch the other way for a bloop single recording her second RBI of the game. And when you add in two infield singles from freshman Justine McLean the Gators overall found ways to get on base, showing just how diverse their offense can be.
The Gators not only have a diverse offense but a diverse rotation as well. With her victory Wednesday night Haeger brought her record to 4-0 which makes her the third Gator to do that alongside senior Hannah Rodgers and freshman Delanie Gourley. With such an array of arms at his disposal, Walton talks about their importance to the team.
“They all have the same amount of starts, and wins, and that’s not easy when you’re putting together a team of three quality pitchers, to keep them happy, and I’m really happy with how all of them are pitching.”
The Gators will now compete in their third tournament of the year as they host the Lipton Invitational this weekend. The Gators will welcome five teams to their humble abode and they will look to continue their winning ways.
First up for the Gators will be the Troy Trojans on Friday afternoon.
To hear more of head coach Tim Walton and a few of the players comments following Wednesday’s game click on the links below: