UF softball wins SEC tourney opener
Published: Thursday, May 10, 2012 at 2:19 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, May 10, 2012 at 6:34 p.m.
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Florida didn't solve any offensive problems in Thursday's opening game at the SEC Softball Tournament, but the Gators certainly found an option in the pitching circle.
Today’s game: UF vs. Tennessee, 3 p.m., ESPNU, 104.9 FM
Freshman Lauren Haeger threw a two-hit shutout and Florida awoke in time to push across a run in the fifth inning to take a 1-0 win over LSU.
The seventh-ranked Gators (45-11) advanced to today's second round against No. 5 Tennessee, which defeated Auburn 2-1, in a 3 p.m. semifinal that will be televised on ESPNU. LSU (34-22) was eliminated.
Haeger, who pitched six solid innings of relief after being called in from the bullpen in the first inning of Sunday's loss to Alabama, kept LSU in check until Florida could break through against Brittany Mack (14-11), who held the Gators hitless into the fifth.
"I was excited to get the start," said Haeger, who walked five and struck out eight to improve to 14-4. "I hadn't had a start all (last) weekend and I felt good that coach had confidence in me to have the ball in the first game (of the tournament). I was hitting my spots really well and getting ahead, which is something I've been working on for a while."
Florida took its time in getting a base hit, but had base runners. Mack walked three batters and hit four, but the Gators stranded six runners and hit into two inning-ending double plays.
That changed in the bottom of the fifth. Bailey Castro drew a leadoff walk and was replaced by pinch-runner Briana Little, who advanced to second base on Katie Medina's sacrifice bunt. Third baseman Sami Fagan came through with the RBI single to score the game's only run.
"Before the at-bat, me and coach talked and we made a game plan for that at-bat," Fagan said. "I just tried to execute as well as possible. He asked me if I was going to hit or slap and I said slap. He told me that the shortstop was playing over so I should try to slap it up the middle, so that's what I did."
Florida came into the SEC Tournament having lost five of its last seven, and two in a row last weekend against Alabama. Coach Tim Walton, who kept the team in Tuscaloosa all week, was happy to extend the stay.
"I thought we showed very good poise," Walton said. "I'm happy with the way we showed today for sure.
"I think the best way to say it is to not go in there and lay an egg. That's obviously important in postseason, but it wasn't do-or-die. We didn't challenge it that way. I think us winning could only propel us to better things going forward."