Florida eliminated by Texas
Published: Sunday, June 2, 2013 at 3:16 p.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, June 2, 2013 at 3:16 p.m.
OKLAHOMA CITY — There were tears when it was over, first from senior Kelsey Horton when she talked about the end of her college softball career and then from sophomore Lauren Haeger just, well, just because.
A special season had ended with a shutout loss. A memorable Women's College World Series had ended with a forgettable game.
“I'm a little emotional, because it's my last softball game,” Horton said. “But I had a great career here. I'm so excited I could make it to the College World Series three times, and I wouldn't want to do it with a better group of girls. So I'm really happy.”
Florida's season ended at 58-9 with a 3-0 loss to Texas in the second elimination game the Gators played in the span of 20 hours.
As Saturday turned into Sunday back in Gainesville, Florida finished off the longest game in school history, a five-hour, 20-minute marathon in 15 innings. But later on Sunday, the Gators were sent home in only two hours, six minutes.
Florida managed only one hit — a single by Taylore Fuller that skipped past Texas third baseman Taylor Hoagland — and struck out 14 times against Longhorn ace Blaire Luna.
“She had a really good back-door curveball,” Haeger said. “The umpire was calling it and we needed to make adjustments.”
But they never came. And the Gators literally lost the game by a matter of inches.
The only runs of the game scored when Florida starter Hannah Rogers gave up a three-run homer in the third to Kim Bruins. Bruins' shot to left barely cleared the fence and UF left-fielder Briana Little actually had the ball hit in the web of her glove before it dropped over the fence.
It was the second time in the WCWS that Bruins had hit a homer that just cleared the fence.
“I can't even explain it,” Bruins said. “I guess that's just my spot.”
It looked as if Florida might bounce back in the bottom of the inning when the Gators loaded the bases with two out. Haeger worked the count full but swung at a high rise ball to end the inning.
Rogers actually pitched her best game of the WCWS, holding Texas at bay other than the homer. She gave up only five hits in taking the loss to finish her season with a 33-7 record.
Although Florida looked like it had tired bats after the late night win over Nebraska, the players refused to blame fatigue for their poor performances at the plate.
“I felt a good energy,” Haeger said. “I know I wasn't tired.”
Florida's fifth appearance in the WCWS ended like the four previous ones. The Gators are headed home mostly because of their inability to hit some of the best pitchers in softball.
The Gators hit .165 as a team with 39 strikeouts and only one home run in the three games. Florida's Nos. 2, 4, 5 and 7 hitters — Kirsti Merritt, Haeger, Horton and Taylor Schwarz — combined to go 4-of-46 at the plate with 18 strikeouts.
“The pitchers were really, really, really good this weekend,” Haeger said. “You come here and the pitcher, it's their ace every single time you face them. They've been pitching all year strong, and I think just struggling at the plate a little bit for everyone and not making as many adjustments as we needed to. But, again, definitely credit to the pitchers. They really did a good job.”
Still, this was a season to remember for Tim Walton. His team was picked to finish seventh in the SEC this season, but it not only won the league, it won the SEC Tournament and made it to Oklahoma City.
“Just a great group of players,” he said. “I'm really proud of this team. I'm not excited about next year. I'm not looking forward to next year. This is a great team. I'm going to take a long time to really admire a lot of the individual and team efforts that this team accomplished.
“If you had asked me at the beginning of the season, could this team do this? My answer would have been no very early and easy. The team just got better, got better, and better, and worked hard, got stronger.