Behind Hannah Rogers dominating pitching performance, the Florida Gators softball team has gone where no prior team has gone before: a 1-0 lead in the Women’s College World Series championship series. In fact, the Gators had never even won a game in the finals prior to tonight going 0-4 in two prior trips in ’09 and ’11.
Tonight, however, would be different as they used a familiar script of stifling pitching, outstanding defense, and timely hitting to down conference rival Alabama 5-0. Rogers (30-8) retired the first twelve Crimson Tide batters she faced before giving up a leadoff single in the bottom of the fifth inning. Not to worry, however, as the Gators showed why they are the nation’s leading defensive squad as they pulled off a 5-4-3 double play after a fielder’s choice to end the inning. It was their second double play in two days.
The Gators opened up the scoring in the third inning as catcher Aubree Munroe hit a leadoff homerun, the Gators 11th in the postseason. Taking the 1-0 lead into the top half of the fifth, the Gators got a 2 out rally which was started when second baseman Kelsey Stewart beat out a bunt single. The Gators would follow with an rbi double from outfielder Kirsti Merritt and an rbi single from third baseman Stephanie Tofft to take a 3-0 lead into the bottom of the fifth a lead which was secured with the defensive double play gem.
In the top of the 6th, the Gators would extend the lead to 5-0 on a sacrifice fly by Tofft which was followed by an rbi double by Lauren Haegar. After a 1-2-3 sixth inning, Rogers would give up a leadoff single in the bottom of the seventh setting the stage for another fantastic double play by the Gators. The Tide would get two consecutive hits to make it interesting before Rogers got Bama catcher Molly Fichtner to ground out to secure the game one victory for the Gators.
It was a 4 hit shutout masterpiece for Hannah Rogers who continued her masterful post season performance. Crimson Tide ace Jaclyn Traina, a rival of Rogers back to the days of middle school, took the loss.
It was another all around fantastic performance by the Gators in this postseason where they have scored 75 runs while giving up only 7, a paltry 0.79 ERA while going 8-1. The Gators are now one win away from winning their first softball national championship.
Game two of the series is set for an 8 pm eastern start tomorrow and will be broadcast live on ESPN.