TEMPE, Ariz. — No. 14 Florida set out on a mission Friday, downing Creighton 13-3 in five innings and upsetting No. 5 Oregon 1-0 to start play in the Kajikawa Classic in Tempe.
A total team effort on offense and sharp defense paved the way for a successful opening day for Florida, as five Gator freshmen saw their first game action donning the Orange and Blue and all made an instant impact starting with the first hit of the day against Creighton, a leadoff triple from freshman Kelsey Stewart. She led the Gators Friday at the plate with a staggering. 667 batting clip (4-for-6), a triple, homer, walk, three runs and three RBI in the showdown with Creighton and 2-for-3 performance against the Ducks in the nightcap with a double and two stolen bases.
Squaring off with Creighton at ASU’s Farrington Stadium in the first game of the doubleheader Friday afternoon, Florida used nine hits from seven different players, three home runs and a stellar pitching performance from sophomore Arizona native Lauren Haeger to top Creighton in the first meeting between the two schools. Both Stewart and freshman Kirsti Merritt were 2-for-3, each with a homer as Merritt smashed Florida’s first grand slam of the season to contribute to a five-RBI performance against the Jays.
The Gators scattered one run each in the first and third innings before breaking it open in the fourth and fifth with three and eight runs, respectively, for Florida’s first run-rule of the season.
Haeger earned her first victory of the season working 4.0 innings with eight strikeouts and one earned run, yielding just three CU hits, while sophomore righty Alyssa Bache came on to finish the Jays off in the bottom of the fifth. Bache fanned three Creighton batters and gave up one hit and one earned run in her first appearance of 2013.
Florida held Creighton (1-2) to just four hits and pitcher Becca Changstrom (1-1) shouldered the loss for the Jays despite retiring eight Gators by strikeout through 4.1 innings.
Senior outfielder Kelsey Horton, UF’s second-leading home-run hitter last season, dropped her first bomb of the season against Creighton, while classmate Ensley Gammel connected for a two RBI double in the match-up.
Gammel then struck again with a key role in UF’s win against Oregon, plating the game-winning RBI with a bases-loaded groundout.
After switching locations from Farrington Stadium to the Tempe Sports Complex for the tilt with No. 5 Oregon, the Gators went to work in a tight match-up with the Ducks, the first meeting between the two programs since 2011 Super Regionals. A classic pitcher’s duel, Florida junior ace Hannah Rogers tossed a five-hit shutout for the victory opposite Oregon’s Jessica Moore, who held the Orange and Blue to just three hits on the night. Rogers and Moore combined for 13 strikeouts, Rogers with eight and Moore with five.
Oregon’s Koral Costa struck with the first hit for either squad in the second frame, but with two outs and runners on first and second after a UF defensive miscue, Rogers fanned Jamie Sullivan to avoid a threat.
The Gators then got a little something going in the third after freshman catcher Aubree Munro drew a one-out walk, followed by a Stewart base hit, UF’s first of the game, but Oregon’s defense caught Munro stealing and Moore forced a Merritt groundout to retire the side.
A persistent and aggressive Gator offense got it done in the fourth after Horton’s patience at the plate paid off with a leadoff walk. Freshman Taylore Fuller capitalized on an Oregon error to put runners on first and second for the Gators with no outs. Next up, sophomore Bailey Castro reached on a fielder’s choice, eliminating Horton at third, while a Stephanie Tofft walk juiced the bags for UF with just one out.
Pinch hitting for freshman first baseman Taylor Schwarz, Gammel put a one-out ball into play that Oregon third baseman Jamie Sullivan opted to toss to first for the out as Fuller scampered across home for the lone run of the contest.
Stewart doubled for Florida in the fifth and Tofft connected for a base hit in the sixth for UF’s second and third hits of the evening. Costa led Oregon with a 2-for-3 performance and Moore moved to 1-1 on the season the circle as the Gators served the Ducks (2-1) their first loss of the year.
Tofft batted .400 (2-for-5) on opening day for UF, while Merritt and Gammel both checked in at .333.