Gator Softball Closes Regular Season with Series Sweep Against Arkansas

The seventh ranked University of Florida softball team completed regular season play on Sunday with a 5-1 victory to sweep Arkansas. Florida won its 21st consecutive game against the Razorbacks overall, and took the 16th consecutive meeting in Fayetteville.

The weekend began with the Orange and Blue (45-10, 15-9 SEC) defeating Arkansas, 8-3 on Friday night. The Gators jumped out to a six-run lead against the Razorbacks (27-28, 5-19 SEC), providing more than enough support for senior Hannah Rogers (22-8), who allowed three runs (one earned) on three hits over seven innings, with three walks and a season-high 10 strikeouts.

The scoring began in the second inning when junior Bailey Castro started the inning with a home run to left-center to increase the Florida lead to 2-0. Following a popout, sophomore Taylore Fuller homered to left-center as well to give the Orange and Blue another run.

Senior Stephanie Tofft singled to shortstop to begin the third, and junior Lauren Haeger reached on a throwing error by the Arkansas third baseman. Junior Briana Little followed with a three-run home run down the left-field line, extending the Gator lead to 6-0.

Sophomore Taylor Schwarz hit a one-out single in the fifth, and Fuller was hit by a pitch on the next at-bat. Sophomores Kelsey Stewart and Kirsti Merritt brought the runners home with two-out RBI singles to make the score 8-2 in favor of Florida. Arkansas loaded the bases with no outs in the bottom of the inning, and one run came home on a sacrifice fly. Following a flyout and a single, Castro cut down the runner from second to end the inning and limit the Razorbacks to one run in the fifth.

Despite the strong offensive showing on Friday, the bats really came out on Saturday night for the Orange and Blue.

Florida was able to clinch the final series of the regular season on Saturday with an 11-0 victory. Lauren Haeger (9-1) pitched a shutout, allowing seven hits with no walks and three strikeouts.

Florida scored three runs in the second inning and Taylor Schwarz would increase the Gator advantage to 4-0 with a two-out solo home run to left-center in the third.  In the sixth inning, Stewart hit a solo homer and Haeger reached on an error before Briana Little launched a two-run shot down the left-field line.

Freshman Chelsea Herndon beat out an infield hit to start the seventh, and Kirsti Merritt reached second two batters later when Arkansas’ second baseman made two errors on one play. An infield hit by Tofft loaded the bases with one out, and Haeger helped her own cause with a grand slam down the right-field line. The junior allowed two singles in the home half, but Merritt robbed a potential home run before a groundout to Haeger secured the series victory for the Gators.

And on Sunday, the Gators would complete the sweep with the 5-1 victory. Florida scored four runs in the third inning and one in the sixth, and senior right-hander Hannah Rogers (23-8) retired the hosts in order in five of the seven innings.

The Orange and Blue scored four runs in the third inning.  Taylore Fuller beat out a single to shortstop and then came home on an RBI base hit by Kelsey Stewart. Stephanie Tofft walked later in the inning to set up a three-run home run by Lauren Haeger, giving Florida a 4-0 lead. Briana Little hit an infield single after the blast to extend her hitting streak to 12 games, but she was stranded.

Arkansas got its first hit of the game on a leadoff double, and the home team scored its first run with a two-out single down the right-field line that cut the UF lead to 4-1.

The Gators would plate a run in the sixth and the Gators would come away with a 5-1 win.

The Orange and Blue will open SEC Tournament play this week as the No. 4 seed, and the Gators will face fifth-seeded Georgia at 4 p.m on Thursday in Columbia, S.C. The teams did not face each other this season.

About Jorge Pérez

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