No. 3 UF softball hosts South Florida

Florida sophomore Lauren Haeger hit a game-winning, two-run home run to lead the Gators past USF, 3-1, on Feb. 27.

Brett Le Blanc/Correspondent
Published: Tuesday, April 9, 2013 at 10:00 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, April 9, 2013 at 11:18 p.m.

The third-ranked Florida softball team will look to get back in the wins column Wednesday when it hosts South Florida.

First pitch between Florida and South Florida is slated for 6 p.m. from UF’s Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium.

The meeting with the Bulls (32-11, 10-1 Big East) will be the second between the two squads this season, as the Gators (38-4, 12-3 SEC) walked away with a 3-1 victory on Feb. 27 in Tampa. After a Kenshyra Jackson solo homer in the fourth to take USF up, 1-0, Florida used an RBI single from freshman Kirsti Merritt, followed directly by a two-run bomb by sophomore Lauren Haeger to go ahead of the Bulls for good, 3-1.

Ranked second in the Division I Softball RPI and sitting atop the SEC standings thus far with an .800 win percentage, UF additionally ranks third in the country in win-loss percentage overall (.905). The Gators check in sixth in fielding percentage nationally (.979) and eighth in team ERA (1.61) in the latest NCAA Division I Rankings, released Monday.

Florida is scoring 7.02 runs per game to rank 10th in the nation, while also knocking 1.36 homers per game (10th), including 11 grand slams. Florida’s 2.07 stolen bases per game check in 11th, while the Gators are slugging .519 (13th) and knocking 0.31 triples per game (15th), paced by freshman Kelsey Stewart’s seven.

Junior ace Hannah Rogers, who tossed her first career complete-game no-hitter last Friday, ranks fourth in the NCAA in wins (22), 12th in shutouts (six) and 17th in ERA (1.31). Rogers’ three saves rank 19th in the country.

Having already tied UF’s single-season record with 15 hit-by-pitches — and with UF chasing the single-season school record 59 with 55 already this season — sophomore Briana Little checks in ninth in the country in HBP per game (0.41).

Conference-wise, Florida leads the SEC in runs scored (295), doubles (60), triples (13), total plate appearances (1379), walks (222), hit-by-pitch (55), ERA (1.61), wins (38) and chances (1,175).

Last time out

The Gator softball team went 3-1 in the last week of play, first defeating UCF 2-1 in five innings after a called game due to weather last Wednesday. UF then won its fifth confer­ence series of the season with wins Friday and Saturday against Missis­sippi State in Gainesville, using a Rogers no-hitter Friday, UF’s 11th run-rule of the season, to kick things off. Florida downed MSU, 9-1 in six, before taking game two Saturday, 4-2, its 14th come-from-behind win of the season. The Bulldogs hung on Sunday to take the series fi­nale, 6-5. Florida is now 38-4 overall in 2013, 12-3 in SEC play. For Rogers, the complete-game no-hitter was the first of her career, adding to her resume that includes a combined perfect game, four CG one-hitters and three combined one-hitters during her time at Florida. Haeger earned the win in the circle Saturday, while Rogers added her third save of the season with an inning of scoreless relief. UF hit one grand slam each day of the series against Mississippi State, using junior Stepha­nie Tofft’s Friday, sophomore Jess Damico’s Saturday for the game-winner, and freshman Taylore Fuller’s Sunday to chip away at a five-run deficit. For Tofft, Damico and Fuller, the grand slams were their first as Gators, contributing to 11 total grand slams for the Orange and Blue this season. Florida senior outfielder and Senior Class Award finalist senior Kelsey Horton led UF at the plate through the last week, turning in a .667 clip in the MSU se­ries with four this, five runs, a double, two homers, five RBI, 11 total bases and four walks. Her three-run homer Friday was the game-winner for UF.

Scouting USF

South Florida enters the matchup with the Gators riding a nine-game winning streak, with its last loss a 3-2 decision to conference opponent Rutgers in Tampa March 23. The loss to Rutgers is USF’s lone slip up through a 10-1 performance in BIG EAST play so far in 2013. Overall, the Bulls are 32-11 this season with a notable win over Michigan (W, 3-2) and a victory against Southeastern Conference opponent South Carolina (W, 5-3). USF has also played Tennessee (L, 11-0) and Kentucky (L, 6-3; 9 inn.) from the SEC this season. USF is a perfect 6-0 on the road in 2013.

Three Bulls are batting over .300 entering Wednesday’s showdown, paced by Kourtney Salvarola who boasts a .368 clip with 42 hits, eight doubles, 12 homers and a team-best 34 RBI through the year. Stephanie Medina checks in with a .339 average, while Lee Ann Spivey owns a .324 batting average with a team-high 11 doubles to go with four homers. Sisters Ashli and Courtney Goff are the biggest threat on the base paths for USF, Ashli being 9-13 in stolen bases, while Courtney has successfully swiped 9-of-11.

Workhorse Sara Nevins has pitched a team-high 134.1 innings for USF with 164 strikeouts. Nevins is 16-5 in the circle for the Bulls and owns a 1.04 ERA. Lindsey Richardson has a team-low 0.97 ERA with 157 Ks through 108.0 innings pitched. Richardson is 10-3 and has four saves. Nevins additionally has five saves as the duo has combined for nine on the season. Sam Greiner (3-1, 1.68 ERA) and Erica Nunn (3-2, 2.66 ERA) round out the USF pitching staff.

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