Florida softball edged by Vols in extras

Florida's Lauren Haeger threw six scoreless innings, but the Gators lost to the Volunteers 3-1 in eight innings.

Brett Le Blanc/Correspondent/File
Published: Saturday, March 16, 2013 at 6:40 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, March 16, 2013 at 6:40 p.m.

For the second time in as many days, No. 3 Florida and No. 6 Tennessee went to extra innings. Unlike the opening game of the three-game set Friday night, the Volunteers prevailed Saturday 3-1 in what was a pitchers’ duel.

Lauren Haeger of Florida and Ellen Renfroe of Tennessee combined to strike out 20 batters and allowed just nine hits. Haeger threw six shutout innings, Renfroe seven.

It was Renfroe’s spot-on pitching and the Volunteers’ timely hitting, though, that made the difference at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium.

Tennessee got on the board in the top of the first when Haeger struggled at the outset. She faced seven Vols and couldn’t escape a two-out, bases loaded jam set up by two walks and an infielder single by Tennessee slugger Cheyanne Taranago. Melissa Brown roped an RBI single for the first UT run.

Renfroe came in and dominated from the beginning. Six of the first seven Gators batters she faced struck out. Haeger, after the bumpy start, was stellar the next six innings. The sophomore faced 20 batters, two more than the minimum, gave up no runs and one hit, walked two and struck out three.

Renfroe held the Gators hitless until the fourth inning. Ironically it was Haeger who got Florida’s first hit of the day. She helped her own cause by blasting a home run that tied the game at 1. It was Haeger’s team-leading eighth home run.

With the score 1-all in the bottom half of the seventh inning, the Gators failed to cash in on multiple scoring opportunities.

A one-out double by Gator third baseman Stephanie Tofft was followed by Taylor Schwarz getting hit by a Renfroe pitch. With runners on first and second, freshman Taylore Fuller struck out.

Gator coach Tim Walton then called on Bailey Castro to pinch hit for catcher Aubree Munro. It was Castro who hit a pinch-hit, game-winning home run against Tennessee in last year’s SEC tournament. Renfroe pitched around Castro and walked her. With the bases loaded, two outs and a chance to win the game for Florida, leadoff hitter Kelsey Stewart popped out and the game moved to extra innings.

In the top of the eighth Tennessee’s Lauren Gibson fisted a one-out single off Haeger. Taranago then smacked a 3-2 pitch for a go-ahead double that proved to be the game-winning hit. Kat Dotson immediately followed Taranago with another RBI double, giving the Vols a 3-1 lead.

After a controversial call by the first base umpire on a Kirsti Merritt ground out, the Gators went quietly in the bottom of the eighth.

The Gators fall to 26-3 on the year, 3-2 in the SEC, while the Volunteers improved to 23-5, 3-2. The rubber game starts at 1 p.m. today and can be seen on Sun Sports.

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