Gator pitchers pack a punch
Tennessee looks to bounce back, Pac-12 neighbors face off
It’s the Florida version of thunder and lightning: Hannah Rogers and Lauren Haeger.
The Gators' pitching duo has helped them ascend to No. 2 in the USA Today/NFCA coaches’ poll and No. 3 in the RPI -- and within reach of a Southeastern Conference championship.
Rogers, a junior righty out of Lakes Wales, Fla., has limited opponents to a .194 batting average this season and posted a 1.38 ERA, going 26-4 with three saves and 193 strikeouts in 197.1 innings. Peoria, Ariz., native Haeger is 13-2 with two saves and 106 strikeouts in 105 innings and a 2.27 ERA.
Their impressive statistics are the end of their similarities in the circle, where Rogers appears calm under any circumstance and Haeger shows her passion with a fiery bravado.
“That’s what makes every competitor who they are and if you have them get outside of their comfort zone, I don’t think they are going to be successful,” Florida head coach Tim Walton said. “If I told Lauren I wanted her to be more like Hannah, I don’t think Lauren would be as successful Saturday [in a win against Georgia].”
At Walton’s weekly news conference, he noted Haeger’s emotion during Saturday’s win, where Haeger pitched a complete-game five-hitter.
“She pitched as good Saturday as I think I’ve seen her pitch in her career other than a relief appearance she had against Alabama.” Walton said. “She gets that look in her eyes, which is something most competitors get. Sometimes I look at her and say, ‘All right, we’ve got to change pitchers,’ and other times I’ve got to give her the ball again. She’s got that look right now.”
Additionally, sophomore Alyssa Bache is 8-0 with a 1.47 ERA this season, giving the Gators a collective ERA of 1.66 -- seventh best in the country. Currently, the Gators have three shutouts during a stretch in which they’ve won seven of eight. Overall, Florida has 17 shutouts this season.
They are on the heels of first-place Tennessee in the SEC East, powered by the pitching staff.
“I’m really proud of the way we’re playing,” Walton said. “I think we’re putting a nice product on the field and it’s very fun to watch.”
Meanwhile, as a tune-up for next week’s Southeastern Conference tournament, there’s two series between top-25 teams this weekend.
Eleventh-ranked Missouri plays host to No. 4 Tennessee for a Friday, Saturday, Sunday series and seventh-ranked Alabama does the same against No. 20 Kentucky.
Tennessee leads the SEC East with a 15-4 record in league play, with Florida right behind at 16-5.
The Volunteers look to bounce back after having their 19-game winning streak snapped Friday at Arkansas. Missouri, third in the SEC East at 13-7, comes in having won its past three games by a combined 29-9 score.
Alabama needs help to pull even with No. 8 LSU in the SEC West. At 12-9, the Crimson Tide trail LSU (15-6) by three games. LSU travels to Georgia this weekend.
Golden State rivalry
Outside of the SEC, the only weekend series between two top-25 programs includes a pair of schools separated by an hour-long drive -- Stanford and California.
Each team enters the Friday, Saturday, Sunday series tied for fourth in the Pac-12 Conference at 9-9.
Cal will look to snap a four-game losing streak after being swept at Arizona State last weekend.