GAINESVILLE, Fla. - Florida softball junior ace Hannah Rogers (Lake Wales, Fla.) tossed a three-hit shutout and the No. 2 Gator softball squad (55-7) used a 2-0 victory over No. 22 USF in the Gainesville Regional Championship to advance to its sixth Super Regional in program history, all under Florida head coach Tim Walton.
Rogers improved to 31-5 in the circle for the Gators (7.0 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 5 K), maintaining a clean slate in the earned runs category through regional play as the No. 2 national seed Gators gave up just two unearned runs throughout the weekend. The Gators’ ace added her 10th shutout with Sunday’s win, UF’s 19th of the season.
The Orange and Blue advance to, and will host, next weekend’s Super Regional round, with times, dates and opponent TBA. UF will play the winner of the Louisville Regional, as a current ‘if necessary’ contest is in progress between UAB and UCLA. The winner will head to Gainesville for Super Regionals.
Rogers earned two wins in the circle throughout the Gainesville Regional and gave up just four hits, both against USF after also tossing a one-hitter Saturday against the Bulls, while sophomore righty Alyssa Bache (Clearwater, Fla.) handled business Friday against Hampton for her first career postseason victory. Bache worked a two-hitter against the Lady Pirates to improve to 9-0 on the season.
Offensively, sophomore Lauren Haeger (Peoria, Ariz.) and freshman Taylore Fuller (Trenton, Fla.) both batted above .500 through regionals for the Orange and Blue, Haeger with a .571 clip (4-for-7) and Fuller with a .500 batting average (3-for-6). Haeger and Fuller combined for 12 of UF’s 19 RBI, three of Florida’s four homers and two of the Gators’ three doubles on the weekend. Senior Kelsey Horton (Valrico, Fla.) went 4-for-9 (.444) with a double, homer and three RBI herself.
A bases-loaded walk, followed by a bases-loaded hit-by-pitch courtesy of USF ace Sara Nevins in the top of the fourth proved to be the difference in Sunday’s Gainesville Regional Championship, as Nevins and Rogers worked in the circle for their teams, Nevins giving up just one hit to Gator freshman leadoff and second baseman Kelsey Stewart (Wichita, Kan.) in the top of the seventh.
Rogers sat the Bulls down in order in the first, second, third and sixth innings to retire the first nine batters, yielding one hit each in the fourth, fifth and sixth for the Bulls, including two infield singles and a Kenshyra Jackson single down the left-field line in the bottom of the seventh.
Despite Stewart’s one hit in the Regional Championship, the Gators were potent on the base paths, taking advantage of six Nevins walks and two hit-by-pitched, including three walks and a HBP in UF’s two-run fourth inning.
Freshman Kirsti Merritt (Lake Panasoffkee, Fla.) drew a leadoff walk and was bunted to second by junior Stephanie Tofft (Lincoln, Calif.), but the Bulls then opted to intentionally walk sophomore designated player and power hitter Haeger for runners on first and second. Merritt and Haeger both moved into scoring position on a wild pitch before Horton walked to juice the bags for freshman Taylor Schwarz’s (Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.) RBI walk – the game-winning RBI, her second of the weekend, for the 1-0 lead.
After a fielder’s choice eliminated Haeger at the plate, the bases still loaded with Horton on third, Schwarz on second and sophomore Jess Damico (Gray Summit, Mo.) on first, Nevins dished out her first hit-by-pitch to Fuller, plating Florida’s second and final run.
Nevins (6.1 IP, 1 H, 2 ER, 6 BB, 6 K) finished her junior season 26-9, while senior Lindsey Richardson tossed 2/3 of an inning in her final game as a Bull, with one strikeout Sunday. USF finished the 2013 campaign 45-16 overall.
The Gators improved to 21-6 (.778) in NCAA Regional play under head coach Tim Walton with Saturday’s victory, making the Orange and Blue 46-29 (.613) all-time in the NCAA Tournament. UF now owns an .800 win percentage against top-25 opponents after two victories over No. 22 USF in regional play (16-4).