For the second time in the last three games, the No. 3/5 Florida softball team brought the bats in a very big way. On Saturday, the Gators (41-8, 11-7) destroyed Texas A&M by scoring 17 runs on 16 hits and on Wednesday night the South Florida Bulls received that same treatment.
The Gators have been riding a hot streak as of late winning their last nine games and Wednesday’s 17-1 victory over the Bulls (33-14) brought the streak to an even ten wins in a row. This was the second meeting between the two teams this year, the Orange and Blue took the first meeting on opening night 10-3 and the only difference in the second game was a more lopsided result.
In the circle for the Gators was senior Hannah Rogers and she continued her dominant pitching as of late. Rogers was the recipient of two victories over the weekend and with yet another win Wednesday night her record now stands at 21-6. Rogers came into some early trouble giving up a solo shot that put the Gators down 1-0 in the first but she was able to recover.
Rogers threw all five innings Wednesday night, giving up just the one run on two hits. The senior struck out a total of four batters and barring the first inning and a few command issues in the fourth, she was able to cruise. With the amount of innings she has received lately, Rogers spoke highly of her preparation in the off-season.
“We worked hard in the offseason, and now it’s just paying off. It’s helping our bodies, and now we’re able to go for long periods of time and able to push our bodies.”
Opposite Rogers was sophomore Erica Nunn who entered with a 9-6 record on the year, but her showing for the Bulls was anything but strong. Nunn threw just one and two third innings on the night giving up five runs on four hits. With senior Sara Nevins resting after a busy weekend, Bulls head coach Ken Eriksen was forced to go with a cast of characters inside the circle, but the Gator offense was just too much.
The runs came early once again as the Gators scored two in the first, but the damage really came in the second, with Florida tacking on 11 more runs; that number is a familiar won as Florida scored 11 runs in the second inning on Saturday against the Aggies. Surprisingly, the bottom of the second began with two straight outs as sophomore catcher Aubree Munro flew out to right and junior shortstop Katie Medina grounded out to third. It was at this point the bats came alive and it became contagious.
The Florida offense accumulated seven singles throughout the inning and a huge two-run home run from sophomore center fielder Kirsti Merritt. The Bulls only hurt themselves giving up a couple walks while also hitting two batters in the inning. Throughout the long second inning, the Gators were able to bat around with every player in the lineup both getting on base and receiving an RBI in the onslaught. With Rogers in the dugout, watching as her team gave her all the insurance she would ever need, she talked about what innings like the second mean to her.
“If your team can score that many runs, it just allows you to go out and pitch and have fun. You can work on things that you that maybe you don’t get to work on so much in the games and throw different pitches.”
Despite the 13-1 lead at the time, the Gators would go on to score four more in the third before stalling out in the fourth, but the damage was already done. The Gator’s 17-1 victory matches their highest scoring total of the year and they finished with their biggest margin of victory on the season. The Gators have now finished out their nonconference portion of the regular season with a 30-1 record and a 7-1 record against any of their foes from the Sunshine State.
The Gators will now welcome the Missouri Tigers into Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium for a three game set this weekend and despite the tough series ahead, Gator coach Tim Walton says his team will need to focus on their own game this weekend.
“We can’t concern ourselves with what they do; it’s not about them it’s about us. We have to pitch well and that’s what it boils down to. They’re a good offensive team and we’re going to have to do a good job in the circle.”
The Gators and Tigers will open up play Friday with first pitch set for 6pm.
For post-game comments from Tim Walton and players click on the links below: