Roundup: Softball tops Creighton, upsets Oregon


Published: Friday, February 8, 2013 at 11:00 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, February 9, 2013 at 12:26 a.m.

TEMPE, Ariz. — The No. 14/15 Gator softball team set out on a mission Friday, downing Creighton 13-3 in five innings and upsetting No. 5/6 Oregon 1-0 to start play in the Kajikawa Classic in Tempe 2-0.

A total team effort on offense and sharp defense paved the way for a successful opening day for Florida, as five Gator freshmen saw their first game action and all made an instant impact starting with the first hit of the day against Creighton, a leadoff triple from freshman Kelsey Stewart. Stewart led the Gators Friday at the plate with a staggering. 667 batting clip (4-for-6), a triple, homer, walk, three runs and three RBI in the showdown with Creighton and 2-for-3 performance against the Ducks in the nightcap with a double and two stolen bases.

Squaring off with Creighton at ASU's Farrington Stadium in the first game of the doubleheader Friday afternoon, Florida used nine hits from seven different players, three home runs and a stellar pitching performance from sophomore Arizona native Lauren Haeger to top Creighton in the first-ever meeting between the two schools. Both Stewart and freshman Kirsti Merritt were 2-for-3, each with a homer as Merritt smashed Florida's first grand slam of the season to contribute to a five-RBI performance against the Jays.

The Gators scattered one run each in the first and third innings before breaking it open in the fourth and fifth with three and eight runs, respectively, for Florida's first run-rule of the season.

Haeger earned her first victory of the season working 4.0 innings with eight strikeouts and one earned run, yielding just three CU hits, while sophomore righty Alyssa Bache came on to finish the Jays off in the bottom of the fifth. Bache fanned three Creighton batters and gave up one hit and one earned run in her first appearance of 2013.

Florida held Creighton (1-2) to just four hits and pitcher Becca Changstrom (1-1) shouldered the loss for the Jays despite retiring eight Gators by strikeout through 4.1 innings.

Senior outfielder Kelsey Horton, UF's second-leading home-run hitter last season, dropped her first bomb of the season against Creighton, while classmate Ensley Gammel connected for a two RBI double in the match-up.

Gammel then struck again with a key role in UF's win over Oregon, plating the game-winning RBI with a bases-loaded groundout.

Track & field The No. 2 Florida men and No. 7 Florida women opened competition at the Husky Classic and the Virginia Tech Elite Meet on Friday evening. This is the final weekend of action before the SEC Indoor Championships, hosted by the University of Arkansas, February 22-24.

Sophomore Marquis Dendy became the new collegiate leader in the men's long jump, leaping 7.99m/26-2.75 to win the event at the Virginia Tech Elite Meet. Joining Dendy in the Winner's Circle was junior Eddie Lovett, who matched his school-record time of 7.66 in the men's 60-meter hurdles to capture the event. Lovett is the two-time defending SEC Champion in the men's 60-meter hurdles indoors.

“I'm extremely proud of everyone so far this weekend,” Florida head coach Mike Holloway said. “Lately, I feel like we've been too focused on running fast, jumping far, throwing far. We challenged our athletes to be focused and really think about executing.”

Freshman Kyra Jefferson continued her phenomenal freshman campaign with a victory in the women's 60 meters, crossing the finish in 7.35 and tying teammate Darshay Davis for fifth all-time at Florida. Fellow freshmen Destinee Gause and Shayla Sanders finished 2-3 in the event, crossing the finish line in 7.38 and 7.42, respectively.

“I'm incredibly pleased with Marquis, Eddie and Kyra tonight,” Holloway noted. “Eddie and Kyra PR'd and Marquis jumped the best he's jumped all year. I couldn't be more proud.”

Sophomore thrower Jayla Bostic set yet another personal best in the women's weight throw, tossing a mark of 19.91m/65-4. It is Bostic's third PR in five meets and the Gator sophomore has improved nearly 13 feet (16.03m/52-7.25 – 19.91m/65-4) in her first two seasons in the Orange and Blue.

“Can't say enough about Jayla's performances this season,” Holloway commented. “She and Coach (Steve) Lemke are really in a rhythm and she's seeing the efforts in practice pay off in competition.”

Sophomores Hugh Graham, Jr. and Dedric Dukes both had big nights for the Gators, as Graham, Jr. claimed the men's 60-meter title for the Orange and Blue in a personal-best tying 6.65. For Dukes, he won his first individual title in the men's 400 meters indoors with a time of 47.22.

“I'm very proud of Hugh and Dedric,” Holloway said. “Dedric ran his first 400 meters indoors tonight and I was very impressed with the strides he has made indoors. For Hugh, he continues to improve as the season progresses and consistently shows up when the heat is on.”

Pole vaulter Caitlin Schuessler jumped into the UF record books Friday night, clearing a personal-best 3.85m/12-7.50 in the open women's pole vault. Schuessler is tied for ninth all-time in Gator program history.

“We need to refocus and not rest on what we did tonight,” Holloway commented. “We need to focus on execution and competing with the emphasis on technicality. We're looking to go out there, compete and truly get better as we head into the championship portion of our season.”

The seven victories in Blacksburg were a big highlight of Friday's action, but a performance for the record books came late Friday evening from Seattle. Junior Mark Parrish defeated a stacked field in the men's open 5,000 meters, turning in a personal-best time of 14:02.46, good for third all-time in Florida school history. He topped his previous PR by over 23 seconds.

In the women's open 5,000 meters, junior Callie Cooper finished in a personal best 16:30.66, good for fifth all-time in Gator program history.

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