UF softball holds off Oregon to stay undefeated
Published: Friday, February 28, 2014 at 8:00 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, February 28, 2014 at 8:29 p.m.
LAKE BUENA VISTA — The battle between the No. 1 Florida Gators and the No. 4 Oregon Ducks softball squads lived up to the hype Friday.
In extra innings, Florida remained undefeated (17-0) on the season, defeating the Ducks 2-1 at the Diamond 9 Citrus Classic Tournament behind a stellar pitching performance by Hannah Rogers and a Lauren Haeger home run.
Haeger's solo blast, her sixth of the season, in the top of the fourth inning got the Gators on the board, tying the game at 1. Kelsey Stewart scored the game-winning run on a passed ball thrown by Oregon relief pitcher Cheridan Hawkins in the eighth inning.
Rogers improved her record to 7-0 with the win. Despite three Gator errors, the senior battled out of a couple of jams while striking out eight Oregon batters.
“We went through all the batters before the game,” Rogers said. “I needed to make sure I just hit my spots. I focused on each pitch, tried to stay calm and used my defense as much as I could.”
Oregon was the biggest game to date for the Gators. They had faced three ranked teams — USF, Michigan and Minnesota — coming into Friday's contest but no team ranked as highly as Oregon. That didn't change Florida's approach.
“We did want to get too crazy (thinking about their ranking),” Rogers said. “Thinking about that will make you over-play. We just wanted to stay calm and play like we do every team.”
Whether it was the lofty ranking of the opponent or just poor execution, Florida committed three errors against the Ducks on Friday. Coming into the game, the Gators had committed five errors in 16 games. Florida was lucky to escape and get to extra innings after committing its third error in the bottom of the seventh.
With one out, a line drive to Kelsey Stewart at second base should have been caught even though it wasn't ruled an error. The very next batter, Karine Shaver, dropped a single into shallow right field in between Stewart, Gator first baseman Taylor Schwarz and right fielder Justine McLean. With Stewart's back facing the infield, the ball hit off her glove. That put the game-winning run on second with one out for the Ducks. Rogers made the pitches she needed to though, getting Nikki Udria to hit a grounder to third. Stephanie Toftt made a great play fielding the ball, stepping on third base for the force out and then firing to first to get Udria to send the game to extras.
“That was a very talented team we played,” Gator head coach Tim Walton said. “To be able to squeak a run out, no matter however you do it, is important.”
Florida hopes to continue its winning ways on Saturday. The Gators will square off against Fordham and Ohio State.