Sunday May 31, 2009Gardiner's Grand Slam Puts No. 1 Gators in First-Ever WCWS Final
Oklahoma City, Okla.
Senior Ali Gardiner (Waccabuc, N.Y.) hit her first career grand slam for her first hit in the Women’s College World Series to put the No. 1/1 University of Florida in the championship series. The Gators defeated No. 4/3 Alabama, 6-5, as Gardiner hit the walk-off with two outs in the bottom of the seventh.
The Gators (63-3) are headed to their first-ever WCWS championship series. They will face the winner of the three-seed Washington vs. six-seed Georgia game.
Sophomore Stephanie Brombacher (Pembroke Pines, Fla.) tallied the win, as she came in relief of senior Stacey Nelson (Los Alamitos, Calif.) Brombacher (22-0) struck out four and allowed one hit her in two innings of work. Nelson struck out five, walked one and allowed four earned runs. Kelsi Dunne (28-5) shouldered the loss for the Crimson Tide (54-11), giving up her third grand slam to the Gators this season, the first in walk-off fashion.
Florida tallied its 12th grand slam of the season off Gardiner’s bomb. Sophomore Aja Paculba (Wildomar, Calif.) drew a four-pitch walk to start the bottom of the seventh. With one down, junior Francesca Enea (Woodland Hills, Calif.) singled to center for her first hit of the game. Sophomore Megan Bush (Anaheim Hills, Calif.) drew another walk to load the bases for Gardiner, who launched her ninth long ball of the season.
The Tide scored the first run of the game in the third to take a 1-0 lead. Jennifer Fenton singled to left and advanced to second when left fielder Enea could not cleanly field the ball. She moved to third on a groundout to first and crossed the plate when Kelley Montalvo hit a blooper behind the second-base bag.
Sophomore Kelsey Bruder (Corona, Calif.) gave the Gators the lead in the fourth with a two-run shot to right center. The right fielder nailed her 16th home run of the season on a 2-2 count, scoring senior Brooke Johnson (Lakeland, Fla.), who came in for Enea after she drew a walk.
Alabama retook the lead, scoring four runs in the fifth. Brittany Rogers tallied a two-out single on a high chopper to second base. She stole second and came around to score when Lauren Parker nailed a single to center. Montalvo then singled to left to score Parker. Charlotte Morgan walked on four pitches and Cassandra Reilly-Boccia was hit by a pitch to load the bases for Holcombe, who doubled to left as Johnson was inches short of a diving catch, scoring two more.
Brombacher came in to relieve Nelson in the top of the sixth. The righty struck out three of the four batters she faced. The Gators tallied two hits in the bottom of the sixth and had runners on first and third, but could not plate a run.
Florida has scored all 10 of its WCWS runs off its five home runs. The Gators will play the first of a best-of-three series for the NCAA Championship on Monday, June 1 at 8 p.m. (ET).