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Florida wins SEC softball title in front of record crowd at UK

Florida outfielder Kelsey Horton, who hit a home run in the second, at bat in the fourth inning while playing Mizzou in the SEC Softball Championship at John Cropp Stadium in Lexington, Ky., Saturday evening, May 11, 2013. Photo by Matt Goins
Florida outfielder Kelsey Horton, who hit a home run in the second, at bat in the fourth inning while playing Mizzou in the SEC Softball Championship at John Cropp Stadium in Lexington, Ky., Saturday evening, May 11, 2013. Photo by Matt Goins Herald-Leader

Three home runs paved the way as Florida outslugged Missouri 10-4 in the finals of the Southeastern Conference Softball Tournament on Saturday.

Kelsey Horton, Stephanie Trofft and tournament MVP Kirsti Merritt all went deep as the Gators won their third tournament title.

Top-seeded Florida (52-7) also won in 2008 and '09.

Third-seeded Missouri (35-11) was denied the school's first SEC title. This is the Tigers' first year of competition in the league.

A sellout crowd of 2,509 set a record for Kentucky's John Cropp Stadium and the SEC Tournament.

The four-day attendance total of 12,043 also established an SEC record.

Missouri jumped out to a 2-0 lead, scoring a run in each of the first two innings.

Nicole Hudson doubled in the first run and Kelsea Roth led off the second inning with a first-pitch homer to center field.

Florida came back to tie on Horton's two-run homer in the bottom of the second. Her ninth homer of the year, also to center, snapped a streak of 34 scoreless innings by Missouri ace Chelsea Taylor.

Then, with Taylor out of the game to open the third — she already pitched a complete-game shutout earlier in the day — Florida took a 4-2 lead.

Kelsey Muller walked the first batter, then got tagged by Merritt for a two-run homer to center.

The Gators kept up the attack in the fourth, increasing the lead to 6-2 on Kelsey Stewart's two-run triple.

Florida went to the bullpen to open the fifth, replacing starter Lauren Haeger with Hannah Rogers.

Jenna Marston and Hudson both banged doubles off the outfield wall to pull Missouri to within 6-3, but Rogers settled down to get the next three batters.

By then, the biggest mystery was whether a young girl seated in the front row adjacent to the Florida dugout would be allowed an exemption to tournament rules and be allowed to keep a foul ball.

An official came to collect the ball, was booed lustily, and relented.

Later, the game ball was traded for one autographed by all the SEC coaches.

Bailee Walters, 7, shook her head with glee when asked if she liked her trade.

A Florida fan from Fairborn, Ohio, Walters also was awarded balls for her two 7-year-old companions, Haley Ferguson and Taylor Shephard.

ESPN took time to interview the young new center of attention.

"I was nervous," Bailee said. "It was exciting."

Meanwhile, the teams traded solo home runs to make it a 7-4 game through 5½ innings.

Florida's Trofft went deep to the right-field bleachers in the bottom of the fifth.

Missouri's Rachel Hay clubbed one off the left-field video board in the sixth.

The Gators put the game out of reach with three runs in the bottom of the sixth.

One scored when Trofft's fly to left was misplayed into a run-scoring single.

Two more came home on Haeger's double to right-center.

Florida reached the title game by beating fifth-seeded Georgia 9-5 earlier in the day. Missouri blanked second-seeded Tennessee 3-0.

Florida built a 9-0 lead over Georgia, getting two-out, two-run homers by Lauren Haeger and Taylor Schwarz in the first inning. Schwarz also homered to lead off the third inning.

Missouri's Thomas, who no-hit Tennessee a week earlier, struck out nine and scattered five hits this time. Marston doubled in two runs in the third and Roth homered to lead off the sixth.

Semifinals

Florida 9, Georgia 5

Georgia 000 030 2—5 5 2

Florida 422 100 x—9 12 0

Glasco, Montemayor (1) and Browne; Rogers and Fuller, Munro (7). W—Rogers (29-5). L—Glasco (17-8). HR—Haeger (F) 17; Schwarz 2 (F) 9.

Missouri 3, Tennessee 0

Missouri 002 001 0—3 8 1

Tennessee 000 000 0—0 5 0

Thomas and Marston; I. Renfroe and Akamine. W—Thomas (22-4). L—I. Renfroe (17-4). HR—Roth (M) 14.

Finals

florida 10, missourI 4

Missouri 110 011 0— 4 8 1

Florida 022 213 x—10 9 0

Thomas, Muller (3), Hudson (3) and Marston; Haeger, Rogers (5) and Munro, Fuller (5). W—Haeger 15-2. L—Muller 0-2. HR—Roth (M) 15; Horton (F) 9; Merritt (F) 6; Hay (M) 5.


Sunday

NCAA Selection Show

When: 10 p.m.

TV: ESPNU

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