OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. – A 3-0 Texas Longhorns win Sunday in Florida’s second 2013 WCWS elimination game was the conclusion to a stellar season for the Gator softball squad, which wraps up the 2013 campaign at 58-9 overall, including a trip to UF’s fifth WCWS in the last six years. Florida captured the 2013 SEC regular season and tournament titles en route to the fifth 50-win season in Gator softball history.
Two First Team All-Americans in sophomore Lauren Haeger (Peoria, Ariz.) and junior Hannah Rogers (Peoria, Ariz.) helped lead a young Florida squad this season that boasted five starting newcomers, while Florida head coach Tim Walton picked up SEC Coach of the Year honors for the fourth time in his eight-year tenure at the helm of the Gator softball program, highlighting this year’s five All-SEC honorees for the Orange and Blue.
For two Gator seniors in Ensley Gammel (Bakersfield, Calif.) and Kelsey Horton (Valrico, Fla.), Sunday’s game was the end of their softball road as the duo capped off four years at UF with their third trip to the WCWS and a SEC Championship run that gave Gammel and Horton their first league title while at Florida. Gammel and Horton accumulated a 211-45 (.824) record at UF, including 80-24 (.769) mark in SEC play.
Florida exceeded expectations in 2013 and downed a number of individual and single-season records throughout the span of the year, including single-season walks, triples, hit-by-pitch, highest stolen-base percentage, highest fielding percentage and fewest errors. Florida is now 12-11 (.521) all-time in the WCWS and the Orange and Blue own a 49-31 (.611) all-time record in the NCAA Tournament, including a 44-21 (.677) record under Walton.
After battling and emerging on top in one of the most epic games in WCWS history Saturday against Nebraska – a 15-inning, 9-8 thriller that served as the longest game in Florida history – the Gators took to the field Sunday for a second elimination game and Texas took advantage, using a three-run homer from Kim Bruins as the difference.
In Sunday’s season finale, Florida freshman Taylore Fuller (Trenton, Fla.) sent a single down the left-field line for UF’s lone hit of the game in the home half of the fourth and the Gators used five walks and to hit-by-pitches for multiple base-runners in the contest.
UF ran into Texas starting ace Blaire Luna (7.0 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 5 BB, 14 K), who made it difficult for the Gators to push a run across. Rogers, a three-time All-American, was opposite Luna in the circle for the Orange and Blue, working a complete game herself (7.0 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 4 BB, 4 K) and finishing the season 33-7 for the Gators, her second 30-win season at Florida (2011, 2013).
Haeger drew a leadoff walk in the bottom of the second inning for Florida’s first base runner and was bunted to second by Horton before Luna fanned UF’s six and seven hitters to prevent the Gators from capitalizing.
A Kim Bruins three-run homer to left in the top of the third was the difference in the game after teammates Taylor Hoagland and Taylor Thom both drew walks for the Longhorns to set it up.
A pair of Luna hit-by-pitches in the bottom of the third had runners on first and second for the Gators with two outs before a junior Stephanie Tofft (Lincoln, Calif.) walk loaded the bases for the Orange and Blue. Haeger counted as Luna’s sixth strikeout of the afternoon as UF left three on in the inning.
UF strung together a mini rally in the bottom of the fourth when Fuller sent a one-out single down the left-field line before sophomore Briana Little (Middleburg, Fla.) drew a two-out walk for runners on first and second, but pinch hitter Bailey Castro (Pembroke Pines, Fla.) was Luna’s ninth K to strand two Gators.
Florida had base runners on in every inning except the first and the seventh Sunday, as Luna sat the Gators down in order in the bottom of the seventh to give the Longhorns a date with Tennessee in a Sunday night WCWS elimination game. For the second straight year, the Gators were shut out in their season finale.