Erica George, ESPN Radio
The No.1/3 Gator Softball team shut down the Michigan State Spartans, 15-4, for the third day in a row on Sunday at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium. The Gators put up a season-high 15 runs in the five-inning series finale to sweep the Spartans and improve to 9-0 on the season.
Cassee Layne, the right-handed pitcher for the Spartans, struggled on the mound from the moment she stepped onto it. In the first inning, she saw all nine of the Gators step up to the plate and she proceeded to walk five of those batters.
The Gators took advantage of Layne’s poor pitching by scoring three runs off of just one hit in the first inning. Michelle Moultrie, who was recently moved down to second in the lineup, was able to reach first base with a bunt and overthrown ball by the Spartan defense. The next two batters were walked, loading up the bases for shortstop Cheyenne Coyle. A Coyle one-out fly ball to centerfield brought Moultrie home and put the Gators on the board. The next three batters were walked, which gave the Gators two more easy runs.
The Florida offense remained hot throughout the game and continued to capitalize off of miscues by the Spartans. Once again, Moultrie got things started in the second inning with a single. MSU’s pitcher Layne, who was still unable to find the strike zone, loaded the bases up for the Gators by walking Schutte and Coyle. Kelsey Horton was able to bring two of the runners home with a single.
The Spartans narrowed the Florida lead, 5-3, in the third inning with a two-out Sarah Bowling two-RBI double to left that plated two MSU student-athletes. Haeger forced a groundout to get out of the inning and the Florida offense gave the freshman plenty of room to breathe in the bottom of the frame.
MSU’s mistakes continued in the bottom of the third, which saw a throwing error, a dropped ball, two walks and a wild pitch from the Spartan defense. The Gators were able to score seven runs, the largest output in an inning so far this year, giving them a 12-2 lead.
Coyle showed off her power against the Spartans when she hit a three-run home run over the right field wall in the fourth inning.
Lauren Haeger, the right-handed Florida starter, pitched through five innings for the Gators. Haeger started off strong, retiring six of the first seven batters she faced. However, throughout the third and fourth innings, Haeger gave up three walks, five hits and four runs.
“She’s a vital part of what we’re doing and I’m certainly not displeased with her performance,” Gators head coach Tim Walton said when asked about Haeger. “But I think overall she’s gonna get better, and has to get better, to be a dominant force.”
The Florida defense made some errors of their own, including a ball that simply dropped between two Gators in the outfield.
“I just kind of got a little bit confused, so that was definitely my mistake,” said Moultrie, one of the outfielders who watched the ball fall to the ground. “I’ll catch it next time.”
Despite the uncaught ball, Moultrie was perfect at the plate with a 3-for-3 hitting performance and one walk. Moultrie scored all four times for four of Florida’s 15 runs.
Next up, the Gators will head to the ultra-competitive Cathedral City Classic in Palm Springs, where they will face top-ranked teams, including Texas A&M, Washington and Texas.
“I don’t think we do anything different when we’re playing teams that have a number in front of their names,” coach Walton said.
“We’re just gonna keep practicing hard, the same thing that we’ve been doing all year,” said Florida third baseman Sami Fagan.