Sophomore Lauren Haeger had two hits that accounted for Florida’s five runs in Sunday’s eight-inning 5-3 victory against No. 6 Tennessee at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium. The Gators (27-3, 4-2 SEC) celebrated St. Patrick’s Day with their fifth consecutive three-game series win against UT (23-6, 3-3 SEC).
All three games between Florida and Tennessee were decided in eight innings this weekend, making four consecutive eight-inning contests between the Gators and Vols dating back to the 2012 SEC tournament. Florida topped Tennessee 6-5 Friday, while the Vols evened the series Saturday with a 3-1 victory
Haeger used a three-run blast in the bottom of the sixth to tie the game 3-3, and connected in the bottom of the eighth with a two-run bomb to walk UF off for the third time this season, the Gators’ second walk-off of the series.
Trailing the Lady Vols 3-0 in the sixth, UF dug deep for its 11th come-from-behind victory of the season as the Orange and Blue improved to 3-2 in extra-innings this year and 6-2 against top-25 opponents.
Haeger came on in relief for junior starting hurler Hannah Rogers in the seventh and went on to earn the win for Florida Sunday after her own homer in the eighth to improve to 8-1 overall in the circle. Haeger tagged both Lady Vol pitching sisters Ellen and Ivy Renfroe with homers, hitting her sixth-inning dinger off starter E. Renfroe, while connecting against I. Renfroe in the bottom of the eighth for the game winner.
I. Renfroe shouldered the loss in the circle for the Lady Vols, dropping to 9-3 on the season after coming on in relief with the game tied at three after Haeger’s homer in the sixth.
Rogers worked the first 6.2 innings in the circle for UF, fanning five UT batters and giving up seven hits and just two earned runs with four walks scattered in between. Haeger walked one in 1.1 innings of hitless, scoreless relief for the victory.
The dual threat Haeger batted .300 throughout the span of the weekend series against Tennessee (3-for-10), leading UF with three homers and six RBI. Freshman first baseman Taylor Schwarz led the Gator squad with a .375 clip (3-for-8), while classmate Kelsey Stewart wasn’t far behind with a .364 average (4-for-11).
Tennessee scattered one run each in the second, third and sixth innings, one a bases-loaded hit-by-pitch in the top of the second. A Lauren Gibson solo home run in the top of the third gave Tennessee a 2-0 lead and Gibson struck again with an RBI single in the top of the sixth to extend the Lady Vols’ lead to 3-0 entering the home half of the sixth.
Florida capitalized with the top of the lineup due up, Stewart leading off with a base hit to left field before two-hole hitter freshman Kirsti Merritt drew a walk for runners on first and second, no outs. Haeger stepped in and blasted a 1-2 E. Renfroe offering out of the park to knot the game at three.
The Vols put together a mini rally in the top of the seventh with runners on first and second, one out, but Rogers forced a Melissa Brown foul out before Haeger came on for the third out in the seventh, a Lexi Overstreet groundout to third.
Florida went three up, three down in the seventh to send the game into extras, and Haeger went to work on defense in the top of the eighth in the circle, holding Tennessee scoreless and stranding two Lady Vol runners on base.
In great position with the top of the order set to lead things off in the eighth for Florida, Stewart connected for her second leadoff hit of the day (2-for-4), a bloop single to shallow left field, before Haeger stepped in with the game still tied 3-3 and one down following a strikeout, to rock her team-leading 10th long ball to left center for the 5-3 victory.
Haeger finished the afternoon 2-for-2 with five RBI and two walks.