The Florida Gators didn’t have their usual offensive firepower, but they had just enough to beat the Oregon Ducks.
In their first game of the weekend tournament held at Disney’s Wide World of Sports, the top-ranked Florida squad edged the sixth-ranked team from Oregon in a 2-1 nail biter that went extra innings. The Ducks got on the board first when Florida’s catcher Aubree Munro committed an uncharacteristic throwing error in the bottom of the third inning, which resulted in two extra bases and a run.
Florida, designated as the visiting team, quickly evened things up in the top of the fourth with a solo homer by pitcher Lauren Haeger, batting as the DP. The blast was Haeger’s sixth time leaving the yard this year, which leads all other Gators.
The game remained in a stalemate with a run apiece through seven innings, although both teams had a chance to break the tie. Kelsey Stewart drew a walk and stole second in the fifth inning, but was eventually tagged out at home; Bailey Castro hit a leadoff double in the sixth, but Florida couldn’t capitalize.
The Ducks had their chance to win the game in the bottom of the seventh when they had two runners on base and only one out. Stephanie Tofft had other plans though, and her inning-ending 5-3 double play sent the game to an extra inning.
That was all the Gators needed. Under international tiebreaker rules, each team begins with a runner on second base. Kelsey Stewart began at second, but was moved to third on a perfect sac bunt by Kristi Merritt. Haeger next drew a four pitch walk, and was relieved by pinch runner Chelsea Herndon. Herndon stole second base, and then Castro loaded the bases when she was hit by a pitch. A wild pitch sent Stewart home, and gave Florida the 2-1 lead.
The Ducks also moved their runner from second to third on a sacrifice, but Hannah Rogers struck out the next batter, then forced a game ending pop up to Justine McLean.
The Gators are now 17-0, and have a chance to add to their impressive record with four games in the next two days as the Diamond 9 Citrus Classic continues. Florida plays Fordham at 1:15 pm and Ohio State at 5:45 pm Saturday.