“Florida topples Tennessee 7-2 in World Series opener behind Haeger” Written By Bill Plummer
OKLAHOMA CITY – Paybacks are not easy and especially when they come in the Women's College World Series, which began here Thursday afternoon with defending champion Florida playing Tennessee in the opening game.
Florida star pitcher Lauren Haeger entered the game with only one loss with 28 wins. That loss came May 8th of this year when the Gators lost to the Lady Vols, 2-1 in the semi-finals of the SEC Tournament.
Thursday afternoon Haeger and the Gators got their redemption with a 7-2 victory to extend their winning streak to six games this season. It also was the sixth consecutive win in the WCWS since the Gators won their first national title and the second by the SEC last year.
Although Haeger won, her consecutive scoreless inning streak of 32 was broken by Lady Vol sophomore Megan Geer, who recorded a two-run homer in the fourth inning. The home run, her 14th of the season, was the 100th of the season for the Lady Vols. It was the only hit Haeger allowed. She retired the first 10 batters in order before hitting Shaliyah Geathers with a pitch with one out. Heager got Meghan Gregg to fly out to left before before Geer hit the first pitch into the left field bleachers. Haeger threw 81 pitches in her route going performance, striking out four and walking none. She faced 23 batters, two over the limit.
Geer was looking to hit her pitch against Haeger. “It was really key to try and lay off the pitcher's pitches and hit my pitch. My pitch that I'm good at. That's kind of what I did. My at-bat I thought she was getting ahead a lot so my second at-bat came up. I decided if the first pitch was going to be there I was going for it.”
The homer by Geer reduced the Gator margin to one, 3-2, but that didn't last long as Florida scored twice in the bottom of the fourth and twice in the sixth to collect their 56th win of the season against six losses. The Lady Vols didn't help their cause any all, making four errors for the third time this season, with catcher Annie Aldrete, who had entered the game with a fielding percentage of .991 and three errors, making two errors. It wasn't the kind of game Vol supporters were expecting from Aldrete who has been a solid fielding catcher and is only a sophomore.
But Tennesee has only one player with any previous World Series experience and nerves obviously played a role in the game.”I think we just kind of need to relax and play our game as if we were playing at the home field or something like that, not to get too overwhelmed and not to try to do too much,” said Geer.
Florida set the tone of the game early when Haeger, after two out, hit a 2-2 pitch thrown by losing pitcher Rainey Gaffin into the left field bleachers in the first inning. It was her 17th homer of the season, 69th of her careet and the first in her WCWS career. Gaffin, who suffered her fourth loss of the season in 21 games, said,” She's a great hitter, two strike at-bat, two outs. She tapped a good pitch. I left it up a little too much and she attacked it. I give her props for that. She was attacking all day.” Gaffin hurled four innings allowing five hits and five runs before Erin Gabriel finished the game allowing two hits and two runs. Gaffin fanned two and walked one. Gabriel walked three and also fanned three.
Besides the solo homer, Haeger had a perfect day, hitting a single in the fourth and eventually scoring on an error by the Tennessee second baseman and walking twice, including once intentionally in the second inning.
The Gators, who advance to play LSU Friday at 7 p.m., (EST) expanded their lead in the third inning when freshman Kayli Kvistad sent a home run to right center to put the Gators in front, 3-0. The home run was her sixth of the season. The Gators added a pair in the fourth, taking advantage of a Lady Vol error, and added another pair of runs in the sixth to seal the issue.
Florida head coach Tim Walton was pleased with the win and Haeger. “Lauren hitting that home run in the first inning really set the tone, [then] she really went out there and pitched well,” Walton said. “Overall, I thought we played clean. We played very poised, very controlled.”
Bill Plummer A graduate of Indiana University, Ind. Bill has been involved in softball for more than four decades. For 30years he was a fixture at the ASA National Office as a communications coordinator, manager of the ASA National Softball Hall of Fame and historian. In addition, he also served as the editor of the ASA official newsletter, The Inside Pitch, and as the Trade Show Manager. He has written widely about the sport and has contributed to 14 books. In 2009, he authored “The Game America Plays.” In 2012, he co-authored “Best of the Best-Women’s Fastpitch.” In 2014, ” A Series of Their Own. The History of the Women's College World Series.” He has been elected to five halls of fame, including the ASA National. In 1996, he served as the Information Manager for the debut of softball in the Olympics.
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