The Florida softball team battled through three elimination games in the past two days, defeating Alabama twice on Sunday by putting up six homers and 25 runs against the Crimson Tide to advance to its second Women’s College World Series Championship Series in the past three seasons. Florida downed Alabama 16-2 and 9-2 to advance to the best-of-three series against No. 1 seed Arizona State. The Gators and Sun Devils will take to the field for the first game Monday at 8 p.m. (ET) on ESPN2.
For the second time in the past three seasons, the Gators pushed through SEC foe Alabama to reach the Championship Series. The Gators last faced Washington in 2009 after defeating the Crimson Tide with a walk-off grand slam that catapulted them to the finale. After Florida put up the most runs in an inning in World Series history and tied the highest runs output for a school in a single game in Sunday’s first contest, senior Kelsey Bruder (Corona, Calif.) rallied for a WCWS record for most runs scored (9) with her two in game two, while junior Michelle Moultrie (Jacksonville, Fla.) leads the tournament field with 11 hits, freshman Cheyenne Coyle (West Hills, Calif.) and sophomore Brittany Schutte (Fountain Valley, Calif.) lead the field with seven RBI apiece. Moultrie additionally leads in total bases (21) and homers (3).
The Wildcats handed the Gators their lone loss of the Women’s College World Series with a thrilling 6-5 win on Friday night. The Gators trailed 4-0 in the game before scoring five straight runs in the fourth. Arizona State tied the game in the bottom of the fourth, then won on a walk-off single with the bases loaded in the bottom of the seventh.
Eight of Florida’s starters have tallied a home run in the WCWS as the Gators have put up 41 runs, 11 home runs and knocked in 39 RBI through five games in the past four days as Florida rallied to an 11-7 all-time record in the WCWS and a 41-25 NCAA Tournament record.
Sunday evening in the nightcap, freshman Hannah Rogers (Lake Wales, Fla.) put together a stellar outing, going the distance to tally her 36th victory of the year. Rogers retired 11 straight batters before allowing Alabama’s first hit in the fourth frame and gave up just one hit until three in the seventh that brought two runs across home. Rogers allowed just four hits and two runs on the evening, fanning seven in the process.
After putting up a record-setting 11 runs in the first game with Alabama Sunday, the Gators returned with their potent offensive efforts, going ahead of Alabama, 3-0, in the early going off back-to-back home runs, first a two-run bomb by Bruder, followed by a solo round-tripper from Schutte. Mirroring the first game, Moultrie got the Gators rolling after dropping a base hit over the second baseman’s head. For Schutte, her 22nd long ball of the season elevated her to sole possession of Florida’s single-season record. Ironically, the last time the Gators sent back-to-back homers was against Alabama April 23, when Bush and DeFelice teamed up.
The Gators proceeded to scatter two runs in the third, one in the fourth and three in the seventh to work their way to the pinnacle of the WCWS. Following their first-inning scoring, Bruder kicked off the third with a hit-by-pitch, enabling Schutte to single through the right side to advance Bruder to second. Bush loaded the bags with a single to left field, at which point Bama traded starter Kelsi Dunne for freshman Jackie Traina. A Coyle single up the middle brought two runs across home for the Gators, but following a fielder’s choice and after senior Aja Paculba (Wildomar, Calif.) was called for leaving first base early, an Ensley Gammel (Bakersfield, Calif.) strikeout ended the inning.
Florida added a sixth run in the fourth after freshman Kasey Fagan (Dunnellon, Fla.) led off with a single through the left side. Senior Tiffany DeFelice (Coral Springs, Fla.) followed with a one-out walk following a Moultrie groundout. Next up, Bruder sent a sacrifice fly out to deep right center, allowing Fagan to tag up and score from second.
It wasn’t until the fourth that Alabama tallied its first hit in form of a two-out base hit from shortstop Whitney Larsen, but Rogers forced a ground out to get out of the inning.
Following scoreless fifth and sixth frames, the Gators tacked on three insurance runs in the top of the seventh on a Paculba three-run long ball that plated both Bruder and Coyle’s pinch runner, junior Ellie Langley (Spring Hill, Fla.), after Bruder reached on a single up the middle and Coyle was hit by a pitch.
A Jennifer Fenton single to left spurred Alabama’s offensive efforts in the bottom of the seventh and Larsen plated Fenton after smoking a RBI triple down the right-field line. Bama’s Traina then drew a walk, enabling Cassie Reilly-Boccia to score Larsen. A fielder’s choice tallied the second out of the inning and Rogers fanned Kendall Dawson for the final out of the inning to give the Gators a 9-2 final.
The Gators finished the year by taking four-of-five games from the Crimson Tide. The Gators swept Sunday’s two games and took two of three in Gainesville earlier in the year.
Game two of the series will be Tuesday night at 8 p.m. and, if necessary, game three will be Wednesday night at 8 p.m. All games will be on ESPN2.