TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Freshman righty Lauren Haeger (Peoria, Ariz.) tossed a two-hit shutout and classmate Sami Fagan (Dunnellon, Fla.) slapped a one-run bouncer through the middle for Florida’s fifth-inning score as the Gator softball team defeated the No. 6 seed LSU, 1-0, to advance to the SEC Tournament semifinals in Tuscaloosa.
The seventh-ranked Gators will play the winner of Tennessee-Auburn, currently being played at Rhoads Stadium on the Alabama campus, as UF advances to the semifinal round for the first time since 2010. Florida last played in the tournament championship game in 2009, walking away with the SEC Tournament title after defeating Auburn, Tennessee, then Alabama.
First pitch for Florida’s semifinal game will be 2 p.m. (CT) Friday, as the contest will air live on ESPNU, with the call by Beth Mowins, Jessica Mendoza, Michele Smith and Holly Rowe.
Haeger worked her 11th complete game of the year to improve to 14-4 on the season, fanning eight LSU batters, her most since nine against LSU in the nightcap of the double dip April 24, while walking five. In the opposing dugout, Brittany Mack earned the start for the Tigers, allowing UF’s two hits and one run, while walking three and fanning four through five innings.
S. Fagan broke up Mack’s no-hitter with her RBI single in the fifth for UF’s first hit of the game, capitalizing on an opportunity after a freshman Bailey Castro (Pembroke Pines, Fla.) leadoff walk. Castro led off the inning with four straight balls to reach base, while pinch runner, freshman Briana Little (Middleburg, Fla.), took over on the base paths for Castro. A freshman Katie Medina (Downey, Calif.) sac bunt moved Little into scoring position at second before a fly out put two down for UF, but turned over the Gator lineup. Sami connected for her seventh game-winning RBI of the season to put Florida in the driver’s seat the rest of the way.
Haeger then helped her cause with a leadoff base hit in the bottom of the sixth, spurring a pitching change for the Tigers from Mack to Rachele Fico. Fico was effective, with two strikeouts to retire UF after a sac bunt from junior Kelsey Horton (Valrico, Fla.).
Louisiana State connected for two hits, a Morgan Russell single to left in the second frame and a Cassie Trosclair infield hit off Haeger’s glove in the fifth. Haeger left the bases loaded with a swinging K in the second to keep the momentum in UF’s favor. Mack (14-11) shouldered the loss for the Tigers.
Thursday’s victory marked UF’s 18th all-time in SEC Tournament play and the Gators’ second victory over LSU in three meetings this season. All three games were decided by one run, as UF won the first game of April 24th’s doubleheader, 2-1, in eight innings, while LSU took game two, 1-0.
The win Thursday also brought Florida head coach Tim Walton within one win of career milestone win No. 500. Walton is now 499-154 (.764) through his nine-year head coaching career – seven of those at Florida.
For fans unable to tune in on television as the Gators continue play in the league tourney, Florida fans can tune in live locally on the radio or online to 105 The Game, WYGC 104.9-FM, with Adam Schick on the call or follow live stats through Gametracker, accessible on the GatorZone.com softball schedule page.