Merritt's 3-run blast lifts Gators past Crimson Tide

Florida freshman Kirsti Merritt hit her fifth home run of the season to break a tie with Alabama in Friday's quarterfinal round of the SEC Tournament.

Brett Le Blanc / Correspondent
Published: Thursday, May 9, 2013 at 10:15 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, May 9, 2013 at 10:15 p.m.


Florida vs. Georgia

When: Friday at 1 p.m.
Where: John Cropp Stadium, Lexington, Ky.
On Radio: 104.9 FM

LEXINGTON, Ky. — Florida freshman center fielder Kirsti Merritt went 3-for-4 with five RBIs to help lead the top-seeded UF softball team to an 8-4 victory over Alabama on Thursday in the SEC Tournament quarterfinals at John Cropp Stadium in Lexington. Florida became the first team in the country to 50 wins, as the Gators are now 50-7 overall on the year, marking the program's fifth 50-win season in school history. UF advances to the conference tournament semifinals Friday at 1 p.m. and will face Georgia for a fourth time this season, as the Bulldogs defeated LSU, 7-0, in the second game of the day.

With a tie game heading into the bottom of the sixth after the Gators and Crimson Tide each put up four runs — Florida with a run in the first and three in the fourth and Alabama with a four-run fifth inning — Merritt drilled her fifth homer of the season off the left-field foul pole for the eventual game-winner, her sixth of the season. Florida freshman second baseman Kelsey Stewart also took sole possession of UF's single-season stolen bases record, swiping second in the fourth inning after an RBI infield single. Stewart was 2-for-4 on the day with one RBI to aid UF's efforts. Junior ace Hannah Rogers earned the start for the Gators in the circle and tossed the first five innings before Haeger came on with the game tied 4-4 to pick up the win. Haeger improved to 14-2 with her fourth win over a top-25 opponent this season. Florida is now 20-23 (.465) all-time in the SEC Tournament and advanced to the championship game last season for the fifth time in program history. The Gators have played in the SEC championship game five times (1997, 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2012).

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