After a disastrous start against Tennessee in the Women’s College World Series, Florida could not recoup.
UT jumped out to an early 3-0 lead in the first and would never trail as the No. 2 seed Gators (57-8) fell to the seventh-seeded Volunteers (50-10) 9-2 on Thursday in Oklahoma City. Tennessee’s nine runs are the most UF has allowed this season.
Florida is one loss away from elimination and will play No. 14 seed Nebraska (45-15) in the WCWS losers bracket Saturday at noon.
During both squads’ regular-season series in March, all three games went to extras. But the majority of Thursday’s contest wasn’t close.
After forcing a groundout to begin the first, junior right-hander Hannah Rogers walked two batters and allowed UT shortstop Madison Shipman to load the bases with a single. Then, she walked Cheyanne Tarango to give UT a 1-0 lead.
Coach Tim Walton subbed out Rogers for No. 2 pitcher Lauren Haeger with one out after the rough opening. Rogers would not return Thursday.
“She wasn’t getting any pitches,” coach Tim Walton said. “After the second ball with the bases loaded, I decided to change it up and go with Haeger. She’s done unbelievably well against Tennessee in the past, so I decided to go that way.”
From there, Tennessee continued to pile it on Florida. Left fielder Melissa Brown doubled to deep center with the bases loaded, scoring two Volunteers for the 3-0 advantage.
Florida would not score until the fifth, when freshman Kelsey Stewart cut Tennessee’s lead to 3-1 with an RBI triple. Junior Stephanie Tofft then singled to center field to score Stewart and cut the lead to one.
UF had another opportunity to score in the fifth but failed. After Haeger was hit by a Ellen Renfroe pitch and senior Kelsey Horton drew a walk, UF loaded the bases with two outs. But freshman Taylor Schwarz grounded out to third to end the inning.
In the sixth, Tennessee put the game out of reach. A fielding error from Stewart at second base led to an RBI from Raven Chavanne, lifting the Vols to a 4-2 lead.
Chavanne then stole second. Right fielder Kat Dotson followed with a two-RBI double to make it 6-2. In the next at-bat, Lauren Gibson singled down the left-field line to score Dotson and give Tennessee a five-run advantage.
During the seventh, Tennessee tacked on two more runs on a triple and a wild pitch from Haeger.
In 6.1 innings pitched, Haeger allowed 10 hits, four earned runs and four doubles. Renfroe pitched a complete game for the Volunteers, striking out nine Gators and allowing only four hits.
A television broadcast contributed to this report.
Contact Landon Watnick at [email protected].