Moultrie's leadoff homer highlights Senior Day win
Published: Saturday, April 28, 2012 at 5:52 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, April 28, 2012 at 5:52 p.m.
The spotlight Saturday was clearly on Florida's Michelle Moultrie on Senior Day, and she responded in memorable fashion.
Who: Kentucky at Florida
Where: Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium
Gainesville-area radio: 104.9 FM
UF's All-American center fielder, the lone senior on this year's roster, smacked a leadoff home run to ignite a three-run first inning as the second-ranked Gators evened their Southeastern Conference series against Kentucky with a 5-0 win before a Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium crowd of 1,092.
“That was just the coolest thing ever right there,” UF head coach Tim Walton said. “Not only are you talented, not only are you the only senior, but then you're good enough to hit a home run in your first at-bat on Senior Day. That's impressive.”
“It was just really cool,” Moultrie said. “The whole thing before with everybody saying all these nice things, and then going out there and having a good game and starting it off with a home run, that's just a really cool experience.”
Moultrie's leadoff homer, her career-high 10th of the season, ended a streak of 14 scoreless innings for UF (43-7, 20-4), and freshman Bailey Castro stroked a one-out, two-run shot later in the inning for her fifth homer to stake freshman starter Lauren Haeger to a 3-0 lead.
It marked the first time in the last four games Florida has scored first.
“I think obviously us getting an early lead really helped a lot,” Walton said. “We're hard to beat when we get a lead.”
Moultrie's RBI single in the second made it 4-0, and freshman Katie Medina's two-out, RBI single in the third extended UF's lead to 5-0.
That was more than enough for Haeger, who tossed a five-hit, complete game shutout and struck out seven batters in improving to 13-3 overall and 6-1 in SEC play. The right-hander from Peoria, Ariz., seemed to get stronger as the game progressed, allowing just one hit after the third inning and retiring 13 of the last 15 batters she faced, including 10 in a row at one point.
She has allowed just three earned runs in her last five starts.
“We all wanted to come out here and play for Michelle,” Haeger said. “I mean, it's always nice when she starts the game off with a home run, so that pumped us up a little bit. But Michelle's great and we just wanted to win by a lot.”
“She's been good,” Walton said of Haeger. “Even the other night against LSU, she gives up just one run and loses. She's really starting to settle into probably a bigger and more important role for us as we move on.”
The Gators finished with eight hits on the day, led by Moultrie and Medina, each of whom had two hits and scored twice.
“We just went up there with an approach, and it was just a matter of getting our pitches,” said Medina. “I'm feeling more confident at the plate, and I think it's just a matter of me being more aggressive.”
UK starter Ellen Weaver (2-6), who went just one inning, took the loss. Rachel Riley threw the last five innings for the Wildcats (25-27, 11-13), who had won four in a row over UF coming into the game.
Florida's win, coupled with an 8-1 win by Arkansas over No. 4 Alabama, left the Gators, the SEC East leaders, and Crimson Tide, the SEC West leaders, tied for the top spot overall at 20-4 in league play with four games remaining.
The two teams close out the regular season with a three-game series in Tuscaloosa next weekend.
“We really needed this win,” Haeger said. “It sets us up for a good day Sunday and next weekend.”
The Gators and Wildcats will square off in the rubber game of their series today at noon in UF's last regular-season home contest of the season.