The sixth-ranked Gator softball team outlasted 19th ranked Auburn, 1-0 (8 innings) on Sunday to sweep a three game series.
UF junior Lauren Haeger won the game with a walkoff single to score sophomore Kirsti Merritt from second base. Florida (34-8, 8-7 SEC) climbed back over the .500 mark in SEC play with the win against the Tigers (31-9-1, 6-6 SEC).
Senior Hannah Rogers pitched a four-hit shutout with one walk and three strikeouts to run her record to 16-6 on the season. Rogers retired 14 consecutive batters from the second out in the fourth inning through the end of the game. The senior also worked eight innings for the second time this season. The right-hander faced 26 batters, two over the minimum for an eight-inning game.
Both teams had a hit in the first inning, but each defense turned a double play to erase the baserunners. Auburn had a leadoff single in the second, but junior shortstop Kathlyn Medina turned a 6-3 double play to retire the Tigers. Sophomore Taylor Schwarz walked with two outs in the bottom of the frame, but she was stranded at first.
A hit batter and a walk gave Auburn two baserunners with two outs in the third before Medina threw home to cut down the runner trying to score from second on a hit to end the threat. She then led off the bottom of the inning with a single up the middle before freshman Justine McLean walked. Merritt reached on an error to load the bases, but a double play ended the inning.
The Tigers had a leadoff single in the fourth, but no damage was done. Senior Stephanie Tofft led off the bottom of the inning with a bunt single and Schwarz drew a one-out walk, but the Gators were unable to push a run across.
Rogers retired the Tigers in order in the fifth. In the bottom of the inning, McLean beat out a single to short and advanced to third on two groundouts, but Auburn retired the Gators to keep the game scoreless. Both teams went down 1-2-3 in the sixth and seventh, sending the game into extra innings.
Auburn made three straight outs in the top of the eighth before Merritt hit a one-out double to right-center in the bottom of the frame. Haeger followed with a single to center field on a 3-2 pitch that plated Merritt from second to secure the sweep for Florida, the team’s first series sweep since March 29-31, 2013, when they swept Ole Miss in Oxford (the Gators’ last sweep at home was against Arkansas on March 22-23 of last year).
The win also helped the Orange and Blue improved to 4-1 in extra-inning games this season, with all of those contests coming against ranked opponents.
Lauren Haeger talked about her game-winning single, but gave full credit to Kirsti Merritt.
“I have to give the credit to Kirsti Merritt. If she doesn’t get on base, I don’t even have a chance. She hit a hard ball up the middle and hustled to second to make that a double, and I’m going to give the credit to her. I just wanted to get a base hit; I can’t get too picky. Again, I have to give the credit to Kirsti.”
As the designated player, Haeger was also able to keep track of Rogers’ performance, whom she also gave credit for the victory.
“Hannah pitched a really great game today. I was doing her pitching chart [in the dugout] and she was doing great the whole time, making quality pitches [and] having short, quick innings. She didn’t throw a lot of pitches, which was helpful, and she hit her spots.”
With an upcoming matchup coming up against FSU, Haeger explained the team’s mind set coming into the game.
“We had a great game with them last time too. Both teams had opportunities to score more runs than they did, but it was a good softball game. We’re going to go in there with that kind of mind set to play the game that we play, and continue to build off our work and our confidence.”
The Orange and Blue now turn their attention on revenge, as they travel to Tallahassee to take on eighth-ranked Florida State Wednesday night. The Gators hope to make up for their 3-2 loss to the Seminoles last week in Gainesville.
First pitch for Wednesday’s matchup is scheduled for 6 p.m. You can catch the game on ESPN 850 WRUF.
To hear more post-game comments from Gator coach Tim Walton and Lauren Haeger and Hannah Rogers, click on the links below: