GAINSVILLE, Fla. – Top-ranked Florida improved to 6-0 on the year and 10-0 all-time against Jacksonville in Wednesday’s home opener. The Gators earned its fourth run-rule victory this season with a 10-2, six-inning victory against JU (2-4).
Freshman righty Lauren Haeger improved to 2-0 in the circle for the Gators, tossing the full six innings, giving up four hits and no earned runs, while fanning seven Dolphins. Haeger was additionally 1-for-3 at the plate.
Junior Kelsey Horton’s bat came alive, once again, for the Gators as she drilled her team-leading third homer of the season over the left-center fence to bring home sophomore Cheyenne Coyle — who reached on a walk — and herself for the 2-0 Gator lead in the bottom of the second inning.
Florida struck again in the fourth with bases loaded when junior Ensley Gammel roped a two-run double down the left-field line to give the Gators a 4-0 advantage, with two runners in scoring position and one out on the board. A Jessica Damico walk that loaded the bases once again, followed by a Gator strikeout for the second out, brought up senior Michelle Moultrie, who walked in UF’s fifth run of the game before a JU strikeout ended the inning.
A defensive miscue allowed Jacksonville to put its two runs up in the top of the fifth to narrow the Gators lead to just three runs, but Florida countered with four runs in the bottom half of the frame to take a 9-2 lead, just one shy of the run-rule. Another Horton RBI single scored junior Brittany Schutte (Fountain Valley, Calif.), who reached base on balls, while illegal pitches proved to be costly for relief pitcher Sarah Sigrest, who had two illegal pitches against two consecutive batters faced, allowing Coyle to cross home for UF’s seventh run of the game.
Next up, freshman Briana Little got in on the action in her first career at-bat, pinch hitting for sophomore Kasey Fagan. Little smacked a two-rundouble to center for UF’s eighth and ninth scores and her first career hit donning a Gator uniform after making her debut as a Gator as a pinch runner against FGCU last weekend.
Haeger forced a three-up, three-down situation in the top of the sixth for the Dolphins, bringing up the Gators, who scored the one run necessary to enforce the run-rule. A Schutte single up the middle scored freshman Sami Fagan who led off the sixth for UF with a base hit of her own before Haeger moved her into scoring position with her hit up the middle.
Seven Gators recorded UF’s nine hits on the evening, led by Horton’s 2-for-3, three-RBI effort, while Schutte additionally connected on 2-of-3 with two runs and a walk.
Jacksonville starting pitcher and first baseman Brittany Eppley led the Dolphins at the plate with two hits in two at-bats, while Meagan Balding and leadoff hitter Kayla Ouellet had one hit apiece. Eppley (1-1) was charged just her first loss of the season after giving up two hits and five Gator runs in three innings of work, while Sigrest came on for the final two, but couldn’t slow the hot-hitting Gators down.