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Starting pitcher Hannah Rogers (No. 13) provided Gators a reason to celebrate Sunday.

Sunday May 19, 2013Rogers Tosses a Gem, Leaves a Winner This Time

Starting pitcher Hannah Rogers (No. 13) provided Gators a reason to celebrate Sunday.

Scott Carter
By SCOTT CARTER
GatorZone.com Senior Writer

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Once again, the way he did a year ago, Florida coach Tim Walton sent Hannah Rogers to the circle in the biggest game of the season.

The Gators hosted USF on Sunday afternoon and the objective for Rogers was simple: pitch well enough to beat the Bulls and advance to the Super Regional.

Hannah did the job in last year's Gainesville Regional championship against the Bulls, going the distance and allowing just four hits and one run.

The Gators lost 1-0 in a disappointing end to their season.

Rogers arrived at Pressly Stadium on Sunday ready to square off against Bulls ace Sara Nevins in a bit of déjà-vu. It was Nevins who outdueled Rogers last year by striking out 12 in a five-hit shutout.

Recent history was on Florida's side, though.

The Gators roughed up Nevins on Saturday in an 11-1 win. Still, Walton approached Rogers in the dugout and reminded her that if the two teams faced off again Sunday, that Rogers would have to be sharper than her outing on Saturday (5 innings, four walks, two hit batters).

Walton knew Nevins would be.

Walton was right about Nevins, but because of the way Rogers responded, he didn't have anything to worry about.

Rogers pitched a three-hit shutout in stifling heat Sunday as Florida advanced to the Super Regional with a 2-0 win.

Rogers struck out five, induced 11 groundouts and walked none in a crisp 90-pitch outing to avenge last year's loss to the Bulls.

"I think that was probably the way you thought that game was going to go with two quality pitchers going at each other,'' Walton said.

Nevins was good, too, but not good enough. She was done in by a rocky fourth inning in which the Gators scored two runs without a hit. Nevins walked Taylor Schwarz with the bases loaded and two batters later she hit Taylore Fuller to force home another run.

That was all the run support Rogers needed the way she was in control.

The junior right-hander from Lake Wales shined in the tension-filled pitcher's duel with Nevins.

"It adds more fun to the game,'' Rogers said. "You’re fighting for every pitch and every out throughout the whole game. If you get down for one second when you are only up by two runs, they could come back any second."

The Gators threatened to win without a hit until freshman second baseman Kelsey Stewart slapped a one-out single to left off Nevins in the seventh. A lefty, Nevins re-entered the game to face the left-handed hitting Stewart after Bulls reliever Lindsey Richardson replaced Nevins with two outs in the sixth.

In 6 1/3 innings, Nevins allowed two runs, one hit, walked six, hit two batters and struck out six.

But this time it was Rogers' turn to celebrate after the game's final pitch.

Walton recalled the chat he had with Rogers in the dugout Saturday.

"It was just about her being able to throw the ball a little bit more through the zone,'' Walton said. “I felt like she was trying to miss bats a little bit (Saturday)."

Instead of trying to avoid contact, Rogers came at hitters with an assortment of late-breaking pitches that had the Bulls flailing all afternoon.

Rogers retired the first nine batters she faced and allowed only three meaningless singles over the final four innings.

"Hannah was awesome in the circle,'' Walton said. "Both pitchers really commanded the strike zone and were ahead of batters. I thought they really did a good job of getting the hitters to expand the zone a little bit."

Stewart prevented what would have been a real rarity with her seventh-inning single.

"It was nice,'' she said of breaking up USF's no-hitter.

"You don't wish to get no-hit obviously,'' Walton added. "I honestly thought if we got no-hit, this is the first time I can ever remember winning a game and get no hits."

That's how good Rogers was Sunday. She would have won with or without Stewart's hit.

USF coach Ken Eriksen said there was little Nevins could have done to keep the Bulls' season alive. He won't be surprised to see the Gators win it all with Rogers one of the main reasons why.

The victory Sunday was Rogers' 31st of the season for the 55-7 Gators, who are seeking their fifth trip to the Women's College World Series in six years.

"She's pretty good darn pitcher,'' Eriksen said. "It's not hard at my age to figure out that they are a contender for the national championship."

 

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