Medina's walk-off single lifts Florida
Published: Saturday, May 25, 2013 at 4:10 p.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, May 26, 2013 at 12:27 a.m.
Katie Medina isn't in the Florida lineup for her hitting ability.
Gainesville Super Regional
At Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium
Florida (56-7) vs. UAB (40-18), noon, ESPN/104.9-FM
x-If necessary, 3 p.m., ESPN/104.9-FM
But on Saturday, she gave the Gators one of their biggest hits of the season.
Medina, who was hitting .212 entering the game and was hitless in her previous 16 at-bats, stroked a one-out single to left to give Florida a 4-3 walk-off win over Alabama-Birmingham in the Super Regional.
“I was just looking for a pitch I could drive,” said the UF shortstop. “As soon as I hit it, I knew it was over the shortstop's head. I knew.”
In the sixth, Florida pinch-hit for Medina. But UF coach Tim Walton said he didn't hesitate to give her a chance to win the game despite her offensive struggles.
“I talked to her and told her to stick with the plan,” Walton said. “Everyone in that dugout was screaming Katie's name.”
The teams play again at noon Sunday. Florida (56-7) is now one win away from its fifth trip to the Women's College World Series.
The Gators had tied the game when Brianna Little was hit by a pitch in the seventh with the bases loaded as a crowd of 1,691 watched at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium.
“Give our fans credit,” Walton said. “We couldn't have done it without them.”
UAB's fans were celebrating in the top of the seventh when the Blazers (40-18) took their third lead of the game.
With two outs, Whitney Fletcher popped up for what looked like the third out of the inning. But UF first baseman Taylor Schwarz lost the ball in the sun.
“I saw a couple of things today I hadn't seen in a long time,” Walton said.
Although the pop up kicked right and rolled foul, Fletcher drew a walk. Kate Armstrong followed with a single and Kristen McGrath's liner just eluded Medina at short to bring home the go-ahead run.
Florida appeared in prime shape to take its first lead of the game in the bottom of the sixth when it loaded the bases with nobody out and the top of the order coming up.
But leading hitter Kelsey Stewart hit a soft liner that bounced to the shortstop and turned into an out at the plate. Kirsti Merritt, who fouled off a suicide squeeze earlier in the at-bat, and Stephanie Tofft both struck out against UAB reliever Leigh Streetman.
“You would have liked to push a run across in the sixth,” Walton said. “How many times have you seen me squeeze with the bases loaded? But then the (TV) ratings wouldn't have been as good.”
For the third time in four NCAA Tournament games, Florida fell behind 1-0 because of an unearned run.
With pinch-runner Kelly Britt at second, Megan McGrath hit a grounder to third in the second inning. Tofft's throw was good enough to get the out, but the ball bounced off the glove of Schwarz and rolled into the UAB dugout, allowing Britt to score.
It was Schwarz's first error of the season.
“She said it just came out of her glove,” Walton said. “She's been complaining about her glove for two weeks now. We have backups, but they aren't broken in right.”
Florida answered in the third when Stewart reached on an infield single, stole second and scored on Tofft's two-out, two-strike single to right.
“That was a huge hit,” Walton said.
Florida starter Hannah Rogers, who had control issues in the first two innings, set down 10 straight UAB batters at one stretch and had two outs in the fifth. Up to that point, Rogers had yet to allow a hit but three straight by UAB brought home a run. Rogers escaped a bases-loaded situation to end the inning.
“I think getting through the lineup once helped me,” Rogers said.
Florida tied it in the bottom of the inning when Kelsey Horton was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded. A hit batter and two infield singles by Tofft and Lauren Haeger loaded the bases for the Gators.
“We did not come here for a moral victory, we came here to win,” said UAB coach Marla Townsend, whose Blazers are in their first Super Regional. “We're not content. We're not happy.”