UF softball blanks USC
Published: Friday, May 3, 2013 at 11:00 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, May 4, 2013 at 12:01 a.m.
COLUMBIA, S.C. — A five-run third inning fueled No. 2/3 Florida softball's 5-0 series-opening victory over South Carolina Friday at the newly constructed Carolina Softball Stadium at Beckham Field in Columbia.
Who: Florida at South Carolina, Game 2
When: 2 p.m.
Where: Carolina Softball Stadium in Columbia, S.C.
Radio: 104.9 FM
Junior ace Hannah Rogers tossed a two-hit shutout to improve to 27-4 in the circle, while UF put up eight hits and played sharp defense to improve to 48-6 overall, 17-5 in SEC play.
Junior Stephanie Tofft handled a school-record tying 10 assists at the hot corner to back up Rogers, who hurled her ninth shutout performance of the season in the circle as UF notched its 27th straight victory over the Gamecocks (30-21, 7-15 SEC), its 19th win in Columbia. Rogers fanned four and walked none through the complete-game effort, facing just 22 batters.
UF's 48 victories pace the nation, and the Gators are just two wins away from their fifth 50-win season in program history. For Florida, Friday's win marked its 18th shutout of the campaign.
After Friday's games across the league, the Gators stand second (17-5, .773) in the SEC regular-season race behind the Tennessee Vols (15-4, .789). The LSU Tigers (15-7, .682), Missouri Tigers (13-7, .650) and Alabama Crimson Tide (12-9, .571) round out the top five teams heading into today's contests. The series openers between Tennessee/Missouri and Alabama/Kentucky were both postponed due to weather, with the potential of doubleheaders today. LSU fell to Georgia, 10-7, in Athens Friday evening.
Gator sophomore designated player Lauren Haeger was 3-for-4 at the plate against the Gamecocks with one RBI, while freshman leadoff Kelsey Stewart went 2-for-4, tying UF's single-season freshman hits record (75), while also tying Florida's single-season steals mark with her 31st stolen base of the season (31-34). Stewart continued a team-best hit streak Friday, connecting in her 12th straight game.
Tofft additionally plated in a run with a blooper to right field in the third, going 1-for-4. Freshman Kirsti Merritt and sophomore Briana Little both connected for hits on the night as well to aid UF's offensive efforts, Merritt with a RBI in the third.
In addition to Tofft's 10 assists, UF turned a double play in the fifth to negate a Gamecock leadoff hit, the Gators' 22nd double play of the year.
Stewart led the contest off for the Gators with a single up the middle and followed by swiping her school-record tying 31st base of the season in the first inning. While Florida didn't convert in the initial stanza, the Gators exploded for a five-run, five-hit third inning to grab a lead it wouldn't relinquish, as Florida batted through the order in the stanza, starting with eight-hole hitter, freshman catcher Aubree Munro.
Munro drew a leadoff walk, while sophomore Katie Medina dropped a sac bunt and reached on a fielder's choice following a USC defensive miscommunication, turning over the Gators' lineup. Stewart dropped down a bunt single to juice the bags, her UF freshman record-tying 75th hit of the season. Next up, Merritt sent a single up the middle for the 1-0 lead, while Tofft dropped a blooper to shallow right field for the 2-0 lead. On the same play, a throwing error on USC pitcher Julie Sarratt allowed two more Florida runs to cross for the 4-0 Gator advantage.
With no outs on the board, Haeger continued to pour it on for the Gators, connecting with a single through the left side to make it a 5-0 ballgame between Florida and South Carolina.
The Gators will head to Lexington, Ky., for the 2013 SEC Tournament May 8-11, hosted this year by Kentucky. The complete 2013 SEC Tournament will once again air on ESPNU, with the Championship Game slated to be broadcast on ESPN2.