Florida Gators Weekend Review: Softball wins thrilling series, gymnastics excels in road loss

Florida's softball team keeps winning close games with grit and clutchness, in case you're just sick of Florida basketball at this point.

The Weekend Review runs down Florida's sporting successes and failures in the non-football, non-basketball, non-track sports on crowded fall and spring weekends. If you have a club sport or other note to include in the Weekend Review, hit @AlligatorArmy.

Softball prevails in battle with Tennessee

Florida's softball team had to go to extra innings just to get a 1-1 split in the first two games of its weekend series with fellow SEC power Tennessee, and things looked bleak in the sixth inning of Sunday's rubber match with Florida down 3-0.

Then Lauren Haeger went boom.

Haeger slammed a three-run game-tying homer in the sixth inning, then slammed a walk-off Haeger bomb in the eighth inning to give Florida a 5-3 victory in the game and a hard-earned series win. Florida (27-3, 4-2 SEC) won an eight-inning game 6-5 on Friday, and lost one 3-1 on Saturday, and has now gone to eight innings in each of its last four meetings with Tennessee.

The homers on Sunday were Haeger's ninth and 10th of the year, and while she went 3-for-10 in the series, all three of her hits were home runs.

Florida next welcomes USC Upstate to town for a midweek game on Tuesday, then ventures to Arkansas for a three-game road set beginning on Friday.

Gymnastics posts nation's highest road score

Florida's gymnastics team took its second loss of the season on Saturday at No. 7 Utah, falling 198.125-197.875. But that total is more encouraging than a win by a lower score might have been.

That's because it's the nation's best road score this year, and because it's really, really hard to win at Utah (or Florida, or a handful of other great programs) in college gymnastics, where 15,000 screaming fans pack the Huntsman Center for each meet. Utah has been the nation's leader in gymnastics attendance in 28 of the last 31 years, which is insane before you know that Utah's 10 national titles are the most in the sport's history, and went 24 years without losing at home from 1979 to 2002 before UCLA knocked off a rebuilding Utah team in 2003.

Oh, and Utah only scored the third-best total of its storied program history, and its best total since 2004, and got a perfect 10 from Georgia Dabritz on the uneven bars, its first in any event since 2008. It's not like Florida was beaten by a pedestrian effort; it took a heroic one just to edge the Gators, who saw Bridget Sloan tie Dabritz in the all-around at 39.700 and Kytra Hunter tie for second at 39.650.

Florida now owns the nation's best, fourth-best, fifth-best, and seventh-best scores on the year, and is generally in great shape entering the SEC Championships (this weekend in Arkansas) and NCAA competition (beginning April 6 in Gainesville).

Baseball drops series to Kentucky

Florida's series against Kentucky got off to a great start on Friday, with Jay Carmichael allowing one run on three hits in 5.2 innings and Florida scoring three runs in the seventh inning in a 4-1 upset of the nationally ranked Wildcats.

The old new 2013 Gators returned on Saturday and Sunday.

Jonathon Crawford yielded just two runs in the first six innings on Saturday, then helped load the bases before being chased as part of a five-run Kentucky seventh that turned the tide for the Wildcats in a 11-4 victory; Florida dug itself a 5-0 hole and mustered two runs on 13 hits in its 6-2 loss on Sunday.

The Gators sit at 9-12, and 1-2 in SEC play, a record that puts them squarely in the danger zone in terms of NCAA Tournament eligibility. Florida hosts North Florida this Tuesday before hitting the road to face top-two team Vanderbilt in Nashville on the weekend, and could very easily be 9-16 at this time next week. This, indeed, is the season of our discontent.

Men's tennis upsets Tennessee, swept by Georgia

Florida's men's tennis team fell out of the top 25 of the national rankings a while back after a four-match losing streak, so Friday's 4-0 sweep on the road at No. 5 Georgia wasn't unexpected. The 4-3 win over No. 6 Tennessee in Knoxville certainly was.

Two days after losing the doubles point, losing all three decided singles matches, and trailing in two other singles matches, Florida swept the doubles point and built a 3-0 lead in singles play before Tennessee erased that advantage. No. 6 singles player Luke Johnson wouldn't let Florida lose, however, battling for a 4-6, 7-6, 7-5 victory over the Vols' John Collins. (Hey, men's tennis? Get more interesting names.)

Florida's just 8-6, but is 2-2 in SEC play with its wins coming over nationally ranked teams. And while the road remains hard this weekend, when Florida takes on Alabama on Friday and Auburn on Sunday, five of Florida's final six SEC matches are at home. If this Sunday upset is the beginning of a hot streak, it came at a good time.

Women's tennis holds serve

While Florida's men took to the court at Georgia and Tennessee, Florida's women's tennis team hosted the Bulldogs and Vols. And, as you'd expect from a team that doesn't lose at home, it blitzed them, beating Georgia 4-1 on Friday and blanking Tennessee 4-0 on Sunday.

Florida dropped the doubles point to Georgia, continuing a worrisome streak of doubles trouble in 2013 (not having excellent doubles player Allie Will and no longer having the dynamite team of Lauren Embree and Joanna Mather is hurting Florida there), but stormed back in singles play, winning all but Embree's clinching match in straight sets. The Gators then swept the doubles matches on Sunday, won three singles matches in quick succession (Embree clinched again), and led in the three others against the Vols at the time of victory.

Florida will host Alabama and Auburn next weekend, and should pick up two more wins in those matches, but it will have four of its last six SEC tilts on the road.

Women's golf takes third in home tournament

Florida's women's golf team started its season on a tear, winning two of its first four tournaments and racking up medalist honors left and right. Since, though, the top-10 Gators have slowed down, and this weekend's third place finish at the SunTrust Gator Invitational was probably the best evidence of that.

Florida entered Sunday's final round tied for second and just three shots back of Alabama, and took a three-shot lead late in the final round but faltered late as the Crimson Tide rolled in birdies, and finished third, five shots back of Alabama.

Elcin Ulu finished tied for sixth, and Camilla Hedberg and Mia Piccio each tied for ninth, but the slightly out-of-context yet most honest quote from coach Emily Bastel is "We're obviously disappointed with the outcome."

Florida is still an SEC and NCAA title contender, to be sure, but a win or a medalist at the Bryan National Collegiate in North Carolina that begins on March 29 would be a nice way to build momentum heading into those competitions.

Lacrosse rolls at Oregon

Florida's women's lacrosse team led from the fourth minute, and led by three goals for nearly 50 minutes, in a 13-5 win at Oregon. Dominance of this flavor is kind of boring, and as soon as Florida starts losing close matches, I will be sure to question the Gators' heart and clutchness so that everyone knows it is a true Florida team. (I'm lying.)

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