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Pinch-hitter Chelsea Herndon hit a walkoff grand slam as Florida defeated the Bears.

Thursday May 29, 2014Gators Run-Rule Baylor, 11-0, to Open WCWS

Oklahoma City

Pinch-hitter Chelsea Herndon hit a walkoff grand slam as Florida defeated the Bears.

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The University of Florida softball team defeated Baylor, 11-0 (5 innings), on Thursday in the first game of the Women’s College World Series. Florida sealed the mercy-rule victory on a walkoff grand slam by pinch-hitter Chelsea Herndon, who went yard against former Hebron High School (Texas) teammate Heather Stearns.

 

Hannah Rogers retired the Bears in order in the top of the first with a foulout and two groundouts. Florida (51-12) took a 3-0 lead in the home half, beginning when Kirsti Merritt blooped a one-out single to left-center, then advanced two bases on a Baylor error as Lauren Haeger reached on a fielder’s choice. Stephanie Tofft drove in Merritt for the game’s first run on a sacrifice fly, and the Gators’ early rally continued when Briana Little walked to set up a two-run double by Bailey Castro.

 

Both teams went down 1-2-3 in the second. Baylor (47-15) got a leadoff single in the third for its first hit of the game, but Rogers (27-8) stranded the runner at first on a foulout and two strikeouts. Merritt led off the bottom of the frame with a home run to straightaway center, pushing the UF lead to four.

 

The Bears had a pair of infield singles in the fourth, but Florida’s senior hurler worked around the hits to keep them off the scoreboard. Aubree Munro hit a one-out double to left-center for the Gators, advancing to third on a wild pitch before scoring on Kelsey Stewart’s single through the left side to make the score 5-0 in favor of the Orange and Blue.

 

Baylor was retired in order to begin the sixth, and Florida scored six runs in the bottom of the inning to ice the win. Haeger singled to lead off before being lifted for pinch-runner Jessica Damico. Tofft followed with a double down the right-field line, and Little beat out an infield single to load the bases. Justine McLean then reached on a fielder’s choice that scored Damico, and Taylor Schwarz was hit by a pitch to force in a run and make the score 7-0. Florida needed just one run to put away the Bears, but Herndon gave them four with her first career grand slam, putting the Gators in the winners’ bracket after one day at the WCWS.

 

NOTABLES

·         The Orange and Blue tallied their most runs at the WCWS since June 5, 2011, when UF beat Alabama 16-2 (5 innings).

·         Florida’s 11 runs were the most ever in the opening game of a WCWS, and the 11-run margin was the largest ever in a WCWS opener.

·         Herndon’s grand slam was the ninth in WCWS history and the first since the Gators’ Brittany Schutte hit one in the aforementioned 2011 contest vs. Alabama.

·         Rogers has not allowed a run in 21.0 innings pitched during this NCAA Tournament.

·         The senior pitched her first shutout in seven career starts at the WCWS.

·         Merritt has homered in back-to-back games for the second time this season (last: March 28 & 30 [Game 1 of doubleheader] at Tennessee).

·         The outfielder posted her 14th multi-hit game of the season (last: May 18 vs. UCF), tying Haeger for third on the team.

·         Herndon hit her first career grand slam, and the ninth for the Gators this season.

·         Castro logged her second double of this NCAA Tournament (also: May 17 vs. Stetson).

·         The junior recorded her sixth multi-RBI game of the season, and her second in the last four games (also: Saturday vs. Washington).  

·         Munro’s double was her 14th of the year, tying Stewart for the team lead.

·         Stewart has a hit in all seven games of this NCAA Tournament. She is hitting a team-best (minimum one plate appearance per game) .542 (13x24) during that span with eight runs scored, one double, two triples, one home run and eight RBI.

·         The Gators handed Baylor its first double-digit loss in exactly three years; the Bears fell to Georgia, 14-2 (5 innings), on May 29, 2011, in the middle game of an NCAA Super Regional in Athens, Ga.

·        The last walk-off grand slam at the WCWS before Herndon’s hit today? It came off the bat of Florida’s Ali Gardiner as the Gators defeated Alabama 6-5 to advance to the 2009 WCWS Championship Series.

 

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UP NEXT

The Gators will face Oregon on Friday at 6 p.m. CT (7 p.m. ET). The contest will be televised live on ESPN2. WGGG (1230-AM) will have the radio broadcast with Adam Schick and former Gator All-American Megan Bush as the announce team. In addition, live stats will be available through Gametracker on the schedule page on GatorZone.com.  

 

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