The last time Lauren Haeger pitched against Alabama, she left the circle early and was relieved by Hannah Rogers after surrendering eight runs in the Southeastern Conference Championship game.
On Wednesday night, the order was reversed, and the result was much better for Florida.
The sophomore pitched two hitless innings to secure the No. 4 Gators’ (23-1) 8-4 victory against the No. 1 Crimson Tide (22-1).
Although Florida won by four runs, the game remained close through the first six innings.
The Gators opened the scoring in the first inning on an RBI single by Haeger that scored freshman Kelsey Stewart.
But after two strong innings, Rogers lost her grip on the strike zone. After an error by Stewart, the junior walked three, including a free pass with the bases loaded, gave up an RBI single and threw a wild pitch that allowed a run to score.
Florida tied the game in the top of the fifth on a throwing error that allowed freshman Taylor Schwarz to score. But Alabama came right back in the bottom half of the inning to take a two-run lead.
But although the Gators bent, they never broke.
In the top of the sixth, Florida loaded the bases on three consecutive singles. Alabama pitcher Jackie Traina threw a wild pitch, bringing the Gators within one. Freshman Taylore Fuller came to the plate after Bailey Castro walked, and she laced a double to left-center field, scoring two runs and giving the Gators a 5-4 lead.
Fuller’s double gave Florida all the runs it would need, but the Gators tacked on three more runs in the top of the seventh on a double by senior Kelsey Horton and a single by Stephanie Tofft.
With the win, the Gators move to 4-1 against teams in the Top 25, with the sole loss being a 12-inning heartbreaker against No. 5 Missouri.
Florida begins conference play on Friday on the road against Auburn (17-5).
Contact Adam Lichtenstein at [email protected].