Friday May 30, 2014 Herndon and high school teammate reacquaint themselves in 'grand' style
Updated: 4:56pm, May 30
Updated: 4:56pm, May 30
OKLAHOMA CITY -- Somewhat lost in the post-game euphoria of Florida’s 11-0 bombing of Baylor was how game ended.
If you watched Thursday, you saw UF lefty pinch-hitter Chelsea Herndon come to the plate with no outs and the bases loaded with the Gators ahead 7-0 in the fifth inning, then promptly pound a 1-2 pitch over the centerfield fence for a walk-off grand slam.
That bears repeating.
In her first at-bat in the Women’s College World Series, the freshman hit a walk-off grand slam to advance the No. 6 Gators (51-12) into the winner’s bracket and a date Friday night against No. 1 Oregon (55-7-1).
It was a moment most kids grow up only dreaming about, but Herndon lived it. When asked to relive it, she humbly underplayed it.
“I went up there with a clear mind and I was calm,” said the rookie from Carrollton, Texas. “I wasn’t going to let the nerves get a hold of me. When I saw a good pitch, I took a hack at it.”
Did she ever.
Making Herndon’s game-winner/ender all the more rich was the fact it came off Baylor reliever Heather Stearns, who was Herndon’s teammate at Plano (Texas) Hebron High.
Stearns was a year ahead of Herndon as a prep and earned 2012 Texas Gatorade Player of the Year honors. She came into the WCWS with a 1.69 ERA, with 123 strikeouts to just 30 walks.
But she just happened to come up against a familiar face.
“I’d faced her a lot in practice, but I wasn’t going to let that get to me,” Herndon said. “We stay in touch, congratulated each other in making the the World Series and the success we’ve each had ... but that’s about it.”
Herndon wasn’t as decorated her former prep teammate, but the .530 average and single-season school records for hits (53), runs (46), RBI (44), triples (7) and stolen bases (20) was enough for All-State honors and the attention of UF coach Tim Walton.
On Thursday, Walton saw an opportunity to end UF’s first WCWS early and tabbed Herndon with the chance to do it.
All the Gators needed was a sacrifice fly to go home with a mercy-rule win.
They got a big fly, instead.
“How about a freshman in her first at-bat at the College World Series hitting a grand slam off one of her former teammates?” Walton said. “I thought that was good stuff.”
Make that, grand stuff.