GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Florida freshman first baseman Taylor Schwarz (Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.) roped a two-out RBI double off the wall in left center in the top of the fourth, and that’s the only run the No. 2 Gator softball squad would need in a 1-0 victory Sunday over UAB in the Gainesville Super Regional to punch a ticket to Oklahoma City for the fifth time in program history (2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2013).
In a stellar defensive game for the Gators behind junior ace Hannah Rogers’ (Lake Wales, Fla.) performance in the circle, freshman Kelsey Stewart (Wichita, Kan.) showed her range and defensive skills at second on a UAB ball hit up the middle that had Blazer senior pinch runner Hailey Glynn – representing the game-tying run – scampering home from second with two outs in the bottom of the seventh. Stewart laid out, snagged the ball in the dirt by second base, composed herself and controlled the ball enough to gun home from her knees to freshman catcher Aubree Munro (Brea, Calif.) at the plate for the third and final out in dramatic fashion.
A crowd of 1,679 came out to Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium Sunday to watch the Gators solidify their spot in Oklahoma City, as the Orange and Blue (57-7) are WCWS bound for the fifth time in the last six years. UF last appeared in OKC in 2011, as the Gators played for a national championship that year. Florida defeated the UAB Blazers (40-19), 4-3, in walk-off fashion Saturday before holding onto a 1-0 differential through three innings Sunday for the sweep.
The Gators will meet familiar league foe Tennessee Thursday at 2:30 p.m. ET on ESPN2 in WCWS opening-round action at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium. The Gators and Lady Vols have never met in the NCAA Tournament, but have met nine times in the SEC Tournament for a 5-4 all-time record in postseason play against UT, including 4-1 under head coach Tim Walton. Florida edged out Tennessee for the SEC regular-season title in 2013, while also taking two-of-three from the Lady Vols in Gainesville during the regular-season set. The last four meetings between Florida and Tennessee have all gone eight innings. Florida leads the all-time history of the series, 43-20, including a 4-3 record on neutral ground. Under Walton, UF is 21-7 against the Lady Vols.
Rogers tossed a gem Sunday (7.0 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 7K), her 11th shutout of the year, to improve to 33-5 in the circle for the Orange and Blue with her 97th career victory. Her seven Ks tied for second-most in NCAA Tournament play, as she’s previously fanned nine batters twice, once each in 2011 and 2012 Regionals play. Rogers struck out the side in the bottom of the first, retiring five of the first batters she faced via strikeout. The two-time All-American righty also sat the side down in the fifth after the Gators grabbed the lead in the top of the fourth as the designated visitors Sunday.
Florida used base hits from birthday girl and starting freshman catcher Taylore Fuller (Trenton, Fla.), sophomore designated player Lauren Haeger (Peoria, Ariz.), Schwarz and junior third baseman Stephanie Tofft (Lincoln, Calif.), as Fuller and Tofft led off the third and sixth innings with base hits for the Orange and Blue, Tofft her league-leading 18th double and second two-bagger of the game for UF.
The Gators faced a tough Blazers squad, including pitching duo Lauren Webster (4.0 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 4 K), who earned the decision and moved to 12-5 on the season, and Lannah Campbell in relief (3.0 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 4 K).
Florida posted its 20th shutout of the season Sunday after chalking up its 21st come-from-behind victory in Saturday’s Super Regional Opener.