UF softball rallies to 5-3 win over Vols

Florida's Lauren Haeger drove in all five of the Gators' runs on Sunday.

Brad McClenny/Staff photographer/FILE
Published: Sunday, March 17, 2013 at 8:53 p.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, March 17, 2013 at 8:53 p.m.

Down 3-0 entering the bottom of the sixth inning Sunday, Florida softball coach Tim Walton and his No. 3 Gators could have easily thought that since Tennessee pitcher Ellen Renfroe was cruising along again, Game 3 of the series with the No. 6 Volunteers was over.

Renfroe silenced the Gators' bats Saturday, striking out a season-high 14 en route to a complete-game, 3-1 Tennessee win.

The Gators did the little things though Sunday that virtually went unnoticed and their big-time player — Lauren Haeger — made big-time plays in a big-time game.

Combine the two and Florida got a thrilling 5-3 come-from-behind win to take their fifth consecutive series against their SEC East rivals

“If we've got outs left on the board, we still have a chance,” said Walton, whose squad has now come from behind 11 times this season to win.

The little things Florida (27-3, 4-2 SEC) did Sunday that made the difference? Taking extra batting practice before the game and switching to heavier bats against Ellen Renfroe.

“When you have a team (on Saturday) collectively out on their front foot swing and missing really poorly then you have to look at what we are doing,” Walton said. “(It was) to try to keep us a little more balanced.”

Most of the Gators in the starting lineup made the switch to a heavier bat.

“It was so we wouldn't be so early,” said Haeger. “We were missing the ball by ten feet (on Saturday).”

Haeger made the most of going to a heavier bat.

The sophomore lined a shot to left-center field in the bottom of the sixth inning. Yelling “Go, go, go” as she ran to first, it just cleared the wall for a three-run home run tying the game 3-all.

In the top of the 7th inning, Walton called on Haeger to pitch out of a two-out, two-on jam that was left by Florida starting pitcher Hannah Rogers. Facing UT's Lexi Overstreet, who was 2 for 3 on the day, Haeger got the freshman to ground out to end the inning.

Florida went quietly in the bottom of the seventh, which meant for the fourth consecutive game the Gators and Vols (23-6, 3-3) were going to extra innings

With Tennessee's Melissa Davin reaching base on an error, Haeger issued a two-out walk to Lauren Gibson. With Davin in scoring position and Morgan Shipman at the plate, Haeger got ahead of the Tennessee shortstop 0-2 in the count and got her to ground out.

The Gators had the top of the order up for the bottom of eight. Lead-off hitter Kelsey Stewart took the count full against relief pitcher Ivy Renfroe, Ellen's older sister, and hit a bloop single. Haeger came to the plate after Kirsti Merritt struck out. Again the big-time player made another big-time play, hitting a walk-off home run. The sophomore knew it as soon as it left her bat. She raised both arms in celebration as the ball easily cleared the fence for a Gator 5-3 win.

It was an incredible three-game effort by Haeger. All three hits in her 10 plate appearances were home runs to finish with 10 RBI. She also pitched 10 innings during the series, recording a win and a loss. On the year, the sophomore is hitting .364 with 10 home runs and 37 RBI along with a record of 8-1 on the mound.

“That is my role on this team: to (hit as well as pitch),” said Haeger. “I love it. I like pressure. I like the big situations. That is just me. That is why I play softball. That is what I live for.”

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