BATON ROUGE, La. -- No. 1 seed Florida scored in each inning of a 10-1 run-rule victory over No. 9 seed South Carolina to advance to the semifinals of the SEC Softball Tournament. In the first inning the game was stopped for more than two hours due to weather, but Florida was not deterred by the delay.
The Gators were awarded the SEC regular season championship trophy before the start of the game. Each of the last three times the Gators have won the SEC regular season title, they have also gone on to win the tournament.
"I thought that we did a good job of scoring runs early in a rain delay game," said Florida head coach Tim Walton. "We always worry about getting hot and getting yourself ready to play. Then, we have the sit and wait for that long rain delay. I thought we responded well."
SEC Pitcher of the Year Lauren Haeger picked up the win for the Gators to move to 24-0 on the season. The senior is the only Division I pitcher to be undefeated with 20+ wins.
When asked about her undefeated record Haeger said, "It shows how I take it inning by inning. I'm just going to keep going out there and doing what I'm doing."
Florida coach Walton said of Haeger, "I hope she stays undefeated the rest of the season. We have a good chance of winning some games if she can stay undefeated, that's for sure."
Once play resumed after the weather delay, Florida tallied runs quickly. In the bottom of the first, a fielding error brought in Kelsey Stewart to get Florida on the board. Bailey Castro was hit by a pitch to allow Nicole DeWitt to score and Kirsti Merritt scored on a sac fly by Janell Wheaton.
Florida increased its lead to 5-0 with Kelsey Stewart and Nicole DeWitt crossing the plate again in the bottom of the second.
Over the next two innings Florida scored three more runs on sac flies. In the bottom of the fourth, SEC Player of the Year Kelsey Stewart added to the lead with a two-run homer to right center.
South Carolina's only run came on a solo homer by Taylor Williams in the top of the fifth inning, but it was not enough to spark a comeback for the Gamecocks.
The Gators improved to 50-5 while the Gamecocks fell to 37-20.
Top-seeded Florida will face the winner of No. 4 seed LSU vs. No. 5 seed Tennessee on Friday at 4:30 p.m. CT / 5:30 p.m. ET on ESPNU.