Haeger nearly unhittable as UF clinches Auburn series
Published: Saturday, April 14, 2012 at 7:45 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, April 14, 2012 at 5:26 p.m.
Freshman starter Lauren Haeger threw 6 1/3 innings of no-hit, shutout ball and senior All-America Michelle Moultrie's two-run double in the bottom of the fifth broke a scoreless tie as No. 3 Florida clinched its weekend SEC series against Auburn with a 3-1 win Saturday.
Haeger (11-2), who retired 17 straight batters after allowing a two-out, first-inning walk to Auburn's Caitlin Jordan, pitched to just one batter over the minimum through the first six innings. But after getting the Tigers' Brooke Lathan on a liner to short to start the final frame, Jordan launched her second homer of the weekend and eighth of the year to dead center to end Haeger's bid for her first collegiate no-hitter as well as end the shutout.
Haeger finished with 10 strikeouts, just one short of her career-high, in recording her seventh complete game of the season before a Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium crowd of 1,193.
“I had a really good day,” said Haeger, who at one point struck out five consecutive batters.
“I had a lot of strikeouts and I kept them off the base paths. We scored three runs, so it was perfect. That gave me a little cushion. I knew the zone and I commanded the zone, and that's what I've been working on.”
The win was the seventh straight in SEC play for the Gators (37-5, 17-2), who won for the eighth time in the last nine games while clinching their seventh straight league series. UF will go for its fifth conference sweep in the series finale today at 1 p.m.
Auburn starter Jenee Loree, who took the loss for the Tigers (26-17, 5-13), matched Haeger pitch for pitch early-on, keeping the Gators hitless until junior catcher Kelsey Horton's two-out, bloop single to right in the fourth, which was the game's first hit.
Loree (8-7) went 5 1/3 innings before giving way to Hilary Mavromat, and the two combined to hold UF to just five hits.
“They've got a good pitching staff,” Walton said. “That's one thing that we knew as a coaching staff is that if they keep the right pitches going, they could keep us off-balance, and they did that today for a long time.”
Freshman second baseman Katie Medina and sophomore outfielder Kasey Fagan, UF's No. 8 and 9 hitters, got the game-winning rally started with back-to-back, one-out singles in the fifth. Moultrie, Florida's leading hitter with a .426 average, then stepped to the plate and lined a double to the gap in right-center to put the Gators up 2-0.
“Their pitcher was throwing really well today, so it was nice to get that hit,” Moultrie said. “I was just looking for something that I could drive.”
UF added an insurance run in the sixth. Haeger led off the inning with single, and freshman Brianna Little, who was inserted as a pinch-runner, stole second, went to third on a wild pitch and scored on junior Ensley Gammel's fielder's choice.
“You can say a lot of things about Michelle getting a nice clutch hit and Katie getting that thing going, but we're not in that position if Lauren Haeger isn't throwing a shutout at that point, much less a no-hitter,” Walton said. “We made some plays on defense, too, so we've just got to keep plugging away and trying to get better in certain areas.”
UF, in the midst of a season-long 11-game homestand, improved to 18-1 at home this season.
“It's good because there's nothing like our crowds,” Moultrie said. “We always have a whole bunch of fans, we're in our stadium and in our comfort zone, so it's good to have that.”