The Florida Gators posted their second consecutive shutout of these Gainesville Regionals, pounding Stetson 14-0 to advance to the Regional Finals.
Florida had a chance to blow the game open in the first inning, but could only manage run one. After Kelsey Stewart opened the game with a ground out to short stop, Stephanie Tofft singled, and Lauren Haeger and Brianna Little loaded the bases by drawing a pair of walks. With only one out and the bases loaded, Bailey Castro was pegged in the arm, drawing an RBI hit by pitch. Consecutive outs limited the damage for the Hatters.
Teams always want to get on the board early, but Stetson came into today’s game with a 10-2 record when teams scored against them in the first inning, including Friday night’s come from behind win over UCF.
In the second inning Aubree Monro hit a blooper to third base that should have been a routine pop fly, but the sun played havoc on the defense, causing a drop. Monro ran through hard, and was able to cruise into second base on the drop. Katie Medina laid down a perfect SAC bunt to move Monro to third, and Stewart’s SAC bunt brought Monro home.
Tim Walton liked Aubree Monro’s play so much he decided to use it again. The third inning was identical to the second, with Bailey Castro getting two bases off of a dropped ball to third base. Kirsti Merritt moved her to third with a SAC bunt, and Taylor Schwarz brought her home on a single. The inning continued with a single from Monro, then Stewart drilled her second triple of the weekend.
With a 5-0 lead Tofft singled and scored Stewart, and that ended the day for Stetson pitcher Meredith Owen, with Courtney Brandt coming to the mound in relief.
After a scoreless fourth inning the Gators got back to work in the fifth. Taylore Fuller singled through the left side, and Walton went back to small ball when he dialed in a SAC bunt from Medina. After a wild pitch Fuller scored from third on a Stewart single, making the score 7-0.
In the sixth Freshman Justine McLean checked in and reached on a fielder’s choice. Merritt doubled and scored McLean, then scored herself when Chelsea Herndon subbed in and singled. Walton went to his bench again, calling on Jessica Damico, whose single plated Schwarz, who walked earlier in the inning. Junior Francesca Martinez subbed in and drew a full count walk to load the bases. That’s when it happened:
Grand Slam by Lauren Haeger!
Those 14 runs were enough to enforce the run rule.
Hannah Rogers added another win to her storied career, allowing only one walk and four hits in the shutout.
With the win today UF advances to the final day of the Regional as the only unbeaten team. They will play Sunday for a chance to move on to the Super Regional. There will be two games played later Saturday with the three teams from the loser’s bracket, with FAMU and UCF first, then the winner taking on Stetson.
If the Gators (47-11) win their first game Sunday at 1:00 they will win the Regional; if they lose, they will play a double-header at 3:00 in a winner take all format to advance to the final 32 teams.