Gators run-rule Hatters for spot in regional final
Published: Saturday, May 17, 2014 at 3:26 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, May 17, 2014 at 3:26 p.m.
Tim Walton thought it was important for Florida to score its second run of the game in the second inning Saturday.
Who: Florida vs. UCF
When: Sunday at 1 p.m. (and 3 p.m. if necessary)
Where: Katie Seashole Pressly Softball Stadium
It turned out he didn't need it. Or the 12 that came after it.
Florida senior pitcher Hannah Rogers threw the Gators' second straight shutout of the NCAA Regional and Florida exploded for seven runs in the sixth inning as the Gators blasted Stetson 14-0 in front of a crowd of 1,179.
“Getting that second run, two is the number for me,” Walton said. “We were playing for that run.”
It came in the top of the second inning and was followed up by a four-run third inning that pretty much quashed the Hatters' chances of pulling an upset.
“We've played from behind before, but not against a team like Florida,” Stetson coach Frank Griffin said.
Florida, the fifth seed nationally, has now won its two games in this regional by a combined 22-0. Both games were cut short by softball's run rule.
“We've hit three homers in two games, but how many singles have we hit?” Walton said. “How many times have we gone the other way? How many times have we advanced a runner?
“I like the way we're executing on offense. It's not that we're shortening swings, but if you're going to swing at 85 percent and you see a pitch right there, don't change your swing.”
Florida will now face UCF, which survived Saturday's elimination rounds with a 6-4 win over Stetson. UCF has to beat Florida twice Sunday to advance to next week's Super Regional, while the Gators need only one win. The first game Sunday is at 1 p.m. with the second game to follow if necessary.
Florida's 17 hits in the game tied a season high and the 14-0 win was the largest margin in an NCAA tournament game in Florida history. Rogers allowed four hits and did not allow a Stetson runner to reach second base.
It was the fourth career shutout for Rogers in NCAA tournament play.
“I don't look at tournament games any differently,” Rogers said. “I just try to focus. Our team has been bringing a lot of energy this week.”
Said Walton, “The value of her shutouts have been huge. There is a lot of value in how she's been able to step up for us.”
Kelsey Stewart knocked in a career-high four runs and Lauren Haeger hit a late grand slam for the Gators.
Florida was already up 10-0 in the sixth when the Gators' junior designated hitter delivered another “Haegerbomb.” The slam was Haeger's second home run in as many days and her sixth career homer in NCAA play.
Florida batted first as the visiting team and loaded the bases on a single by Stephanie Tofft and two walks by Stetson starter Meredith Owen. Owen, who pitched eight innings in a win over UCF on Friday, clipped Florida's Bailey Castro in the arm with a pitch to bring in the game's first run.
Then the sun came into play.
In the top of the second, UF catcher Aubree Munro hit a pop up that Stetson shortstop Amanda Grimaldo appeared to lose in the sun. The ball dropped and Munro ended up at second. After she was sacrificed to third, Stewart brought Munro home with a groundout to give Walton the 2-0 lead he was looking for.
In the top of the third, a high fly by Castro dropped in left when it again appeared to be lost in the sun. Castro, who was credited with a double on the play, scored on a single by Taylor Schwarz.
“It was frustrating because we did a lot of it to ourselves,” Griffin said. “We let the sun be a factor.”
Munro followed with a single, and one batter later Stewart brought both runners home with a triple to right center.
It was Stewart's second triple in two days and her team-leading sixth triple of the season.
“My job was just to get a hit to bring a runner in, so I wasn't trying to hit a triple,” Stewart said. “But she gave me an inside pitch.”
Tofft's single to left made it 6-0 and allowed Walton to start making substitutions.
“Wins in the postseason are hard to get and to get everyone in the game is really special,” Walton said.
Stewart singled home another run in the fifth inning to score Taylore Fuller. In the sixth, Kirsti Merritt doubled to the fence in left-center field to score Briana Little. Pinch-hitter Chelsea Herndon singled home the ninth run.
Jess Damico, pinch-hitting for Stewart, blooped a single off the glove of Grimaldo to get the Gators into double figures. After a walk, Haeger delivered to right-center field to cap the seven-run sixth.
Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at email@example.com. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.