GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- No. 14 Tennessee softball earned its second-straight win over 6th-ranked Florida, topping the Gators 7-2 to clinch the series in Gainesville on Saturday afternoon. Lady Vol senior pitcher Ashley Rogers had a dominant outing in her first start in more than a month, while cleanup batter Zaida Puni drove in four runs to highlight the victory for the Big Orange.
Rogers went nine-up, nine-down over the course of the first three innings, dealing five strikeouts in her first appearance since going 1.1 frames of relief against Virginia on Friday, March 4. Sophomore lefty Bailey McCachren came on to finish the game and earn the win, spinning four innings with a pair of strikeouts and two earned runs.
Gator starter Lexie Delbry was tagged with her second loss of the season, giving up seven earned runs on five hits.
An infielder from Carson, California, Puni knocked in a game-high four RBIs with a two-run homer and a two-run double for the Lady Vols on Saturday. The sophomore slugger has crushed four bombs in SEC play and has collected a team-high 14 RBIs against conference foes.
Freshman infielder Lair Beautae continued her strong series with an RBI double and two runs scored, while outfielders Amanda Ayala and Rylie West each tabbed RBIs on a groundout and sac fly, respectively.
Tennessee (22-8, 5-2 SEC) needed just two plate appearances to put up a run in the top of the first without recording a hit. Leadoff batter Kiki Milloy was hit by a pitch, stole second and moved to third on a wild pitch before Ayala's groundout to the pitcher brought her home and gave the Lady Vols an early 1-0 edge.
The Lady Vols gained a 4-0 lead in the top of the third with back-to-back extra-base hits via Beautae and Puni. Beautae smoked an RBI double to the gap in right center that brought Kelcy Leach's pinch runner Katie Taylor in from second, and Puni doubled the Big Orange lead when she tomahawked a line drive off the pitching facility beyond left field on a full-count rise ball for a two-run blast.
Puni provided two more runs for Tennessee in the top of the fifth, smashing a one-out double off of third base that bounced into the outfield and allowed Milloy and Leach to come home safely. West gave the Lady Vols a seven-run advantage on the next at-bat, driving a sac fly to center field that brought Beautae in from third.
McCachren left two Gators stranded in the fifth and had a hand in UT's 1-6-3 double play that retired the side in the sixth. Florida (26-5, 4-4 SEC) broke up the shutout in the bottom of the seventh with Emily Wilkie's two-out, two-run homer before a popup to short ended the game.
UP NEXT: Tennessee goes for its first series sweep in Gainesville on national television Sunday afternoon. The Lady Vols and Gators will square off on ESPNU, with first pitch slated for 1 p.m. at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium.