Gator Softball Advances In SEC Tournament, Run-Rule South Carolina

Lightning may have extended the afternoon for the South Carolina softball team but the top seeded Florida Gators made quick work once the game resumed in Baton Rouge after a two hour lightning delay. The second ranked Gators run-ruled the Gamecocks, 10-1 in five innings in the SEC Tournament quarterfinals. Florida is now 50-5 on the year.

Junior Kelsey Stewart showcased why she was selected by conference coaches as the SEC Player of the Year. The second baseman nearly hit for the cycle, finishing 4 for 4 with a triple and home run. She even showed off her speed, scoring from second base off a Kirsti Merritt bunt in the bottom of the first.

Stewart was not the only Gator to contribute to the offensive onslaught. Kirsti Merritt, Lauren Haeger, Bailey Castro, Janell Wheaton and Kayli Kvistad all drove in runs en route to another run-rule win against South Carolina. In all four contests this year, the Gamecocks failed to make it to the seventh inning against the Gators.

SEC Pitcher of the Year Lauren Haeger continues her dominant run in 2015. The senior pitched four scoreless innings and only allowed three base runners. By improving to 24 and 0, she is two wins away from tying the SEC record for the longest win streak to open a season. Jaclyn Traina began her 2012 campaign for the Alabama Crimson Tide with a 26 and 0 record.

Freshman Aleshia Ocasio relieved Haeger in the top of the fifth. Ocasio, who was selected to the All-SEC Freshman Team, allowed a home run to Taylor Williams for South Carolina’s only run of the game.

It’s on to the SEC semifinals for the Gators where they will face the Tennessee Volunteers. The Vols upset the LSU Tigers 7-5 in the quarterfinals. This will be the first time this year Florida will face Tennessee.

The Volunteers (39-13) are stocked with hit-for-average hitters with eight players hitting at least .300. Their lead-off hitter, Rainey Gaffin, is batting .342 on the year and she can also come in the game as a relief pitcher.

Annie Aldrete, Meghan Gregg, Megan Geer, Scarlet McSwain and Taylor Koenig all have at least 10 home runs and 30 runs batted in. The Gators only have three players with those type of numbers.

With Gaffin in the bullpen, Erin Gabriel and Gretchen Aucoin are the main starters for the Vols. Both have shown consistency throughout the year, but Aucoin struggled in SEC play which brought up her ERA to a 3.51. Expect the Gators to throw a lot of different hitting approaches at Tennessee, including early-count hitting and bunting.

First pitch on Friday is at 5:30 p.m.

About Fernando Juncadella

Senior at the University of Florida. Working at ESPN Gainesville for four years, covering Florida football, softball, and baseball.

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