OKLAHOMA CITY – USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year Lauren Haeger tossed a one-hitter and also homered to lead defending champion and No. 1 Florida to a 7-2 victory over No. 8 Tennessee in the opening game of the 2015 Women’s College World Series, Thursday afternoon at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium.
Haeger (29-1) struck out four and did not walk a batter to pick up the 70th vicotory of her career. The senior also homered and went 2-for-2 at the plate with two runs scored. The long ball was the 17th of the season and 69th of her career. She only allowed three base runners (2 HBP) and her first two runs of the post season. The runs snapped a 34.1 shutout streak over a four-plus game stretch.
Kelsey Stewart also recorded two hits for the Gators, who finished the game with seven hits.
Tennessee’s Megan Greer recorded the lone hit for the Lady Vols, a two-run home run in the fourth.
Haeger staked herself and the Gators to a 1-0 lead with a blast over the leftfield wall in the bottom of the first.
In her first WCWS at bat, freshman Kayli Kvistad (pictured) put a pair of runs on the board in the third and pushed Florida’s lead to 3-0 with a two-run shot into the rightfield bleachers.
The Lady Vols finally broke through against Haeger in the fourth. Greer’s two-run home run cut UT’s deficit to 3-2 in the top half of the frame. It also marked the first two runs scored against the Gators this postseason (41.2 innings). That would as close as UT would get.
A two-out rally by Florida that was aided by a pair of UT errors, allowed the Gators to get both those runs back and grab a 5-2 lead. With runners on first and second, a grounder to second was misplayed and Haeger came around to score. A few pitches later on a stolen base attempt, the throw ricocheted off of Kirsti Merritt’s helmet and into leftfield, allowing Bailey Castro to scamper home with the second run.
The Gators added a couple of insurance runs in the sixth. The third of four UT errors on a failed first-third pickoff attempt led to the first run. Castro dropped down a perfect squeeze bunt for the seventh UF run of the game and a 7-2 cushion.
Florida advances to the winner’s bracket tomorrow and will face the victor of game two between Auburn or LSU at 7:00 p.m. ET. Tennessee moves down to the loser’s bracket and will return to action Saturday, May 30 at 12:00 p.m. ET against either Auburn or LSU.
-- Image courtesy of Gatorzone.com (Tim Casey)