All tournament long, Florida has struggled at the plate with runners on base. Well, it finally caught up to them and cost them a game- and quite a big one at that.
The Gators stranded five runners (which doesn’t include Aubree Munro’s single being wasted when Justine McLean lined into a double play) in tonight’s ugly 1-0 loss to Michigan. They also made a pair of extremely uncharacteristic defensive blunders in the first inning, one by shortstop Katie Medina (throwing to the wrong base) and center fielder Kirsti Merritt (misreading a fly ball and allowing it to drop and then subsequently throwing to the cutoff instead of straight home, which allowed the winning run to score). In doing so, the Gators wasted yet another fantastic effort by Lauren Haeger, who allowed four hits and one run in six innings.
The result of all that is a winner take all Game Three tomorrow night at 8, one that suddenly favors Michigan.
Wolverine starter Haylie Wagner was spectacular all day, seldom allowing the Gator hitters to make solid contact. On the rare occasions in which Florida hitters did hit the ball hard, it was right at a fielder. Florida’s less powerful hitters- the slappers- couldn’t ever put one past the infielders, and Wagner frequently jammed the Gators’ power hitters, result in balls fisted no more than 30 feet away from the plate. Just a frustrating night all around.
But while Michigan can throw out Wagner again, Florida also gets to use Haeger again. Another performance on the mound like this, coupled with some timely hitting and smart, tight defense, may very well erase tonight’s frustration and lead to a championship celebration tomorrow.
This team has been at its best all year. They’ve been clutch when they needed to be. Let’s see if they can do it one more time, this time in the most important game of their lives.