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Florida All-American Hannah Rogers has been on a roll during the postseason.

Saturday May 31, 2014Sitting Ducks: Rogers Rolls No. 1 Oregon For 5th Straight NCAA Shutout

Florida All-American Hannah Rogers has been on a roll during the postseason.

Chris Harry
By Chris Harry
GatorZone.com Senior Writer

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Hannah Rogers came to the Sooner State as the NCAA’s active leader in career wins. What she did in shutting out three opponents in regional and Super regional play back in Gainesville was thoroughly impressive.

But after Friday night’s 4-0 shutout win of No. 1-ranked Oregon here at the Women’s College World Series -- roughly 36 hours after Thursday’s 11-0 blanking of 17th-ranked Baylor -- even Florida coach Tim Walton admitted this is a different version of the Rogers he’s seen over the last four years.

“No way," Walton said. "She’s never been this good."

Nice timing, too.

In frustrating one of the nation's most potent offensive teams, Rogers was as masterful as she was dominant. She had a bead on the evening’s strike zone from the start and then went Duck hunting.

“I just feel very confident in locating my pitches right now,” Rogers said.

Oregon (55-8-1), champions of the Pac-12 Conference, came into the game ranked third in the NCAA in batting average (.349), seventh in slugging percentage (.536) and fourth in runs per game (6.98). Over the course of their season, the Ducks broke school records in all three of those categories, along with total hits (579), runs (438) and RBI.

UF's run of shutouts -- six in seven NCAA games -- had to come to an end, right?

Well, Oregon managed three hits against Rogers, the 5-foot-11 fireballer from Lake Wales, Fla., who has now thrown 28 innings of NCAA Tournament softball without giving up a run (earned or otherwise). Of those three Oregon hits (the same number as Baylor got the night before), two were ground-ball singles through infield holes and the other was a bunt that settled four feet in front of home plate.

As for the rest of the mostly sitting-in-the-dugout Ducks?

* 5 strikeouts.
* 11 ground outs, one that became a rare 5-4-3 double play.
* 2 infield pop outs.
* 1 line drive back to the Rogers, which became UF’s second double play of the night.
* 2 fly outs (one to left, one to right).

That’s right, just two Oregon batters got the ball out of the infield in the air. The few times the Ducks made solid contact, Florida’s infielders -- Stephanie Tofft with a slick glove at third, Katie Medina with a rocket arm at short, Taylor Schwarz with big stretches at first -- had their pitcher's back.

“Hannah Rogers is a great pitcher,” said Oregon third baseman and leadoff hitter Courtney Ceo, who brought a .490 average into the game and was a rare Duck to run the bases, thanks to her bunt single in the sixth. “She knew what she was getting with the umpire -- that she was getting those strikes -- and she pounded that zone. She kept us off-balance, keeping it around the zone; not necessarily throwing strikes, but getting us to chase. Props to her for that.”

Ducks coach Mike White was more succinct.

“We got handled today, to tell you the truth,” he said.

He needn’t feel too badly. The Gators have “handled” everybody in NCAA to play to date. Manhandled, actually. The aggregate score of their eight tournament games is now 64-4, with seven shutouts.

But this game was about Rogers, who was buoyed by a run in the second on Bailey Castro’s moon shot homer to left off national player of the year candidate Cheridan Hawkins, then three more runs in the third when Castro smacked an RBI single and Briana Little followed with what basically was an infield double, thanks to a misplayed pop-up by second baseman Karine Shaver with two outs and two Gators running.

A 4-0 lead for Rogers, right now, may as well be 8-0.

"It's just a great feeling to know that you have a great pitcher out there throwing strikes," Little said. "And she has confidence in her defense."

Walton and pitching coach Jennifer Rocha did some fine-tuning the last few weeks with Rogers, who early this week became the first player in program history to garner All-America honors in all four of her years. The results are there for all to see.

Unless you happen to be hitting against her. Then you're likely just flailing away.

“It’s spin,” Walton said. “The way she’s getting over drop balls and locating the curve ball. She got a couple [good pitches] on the change-up and off-speed pitch, but I think it has more to do with the way she’s been able to be aggressive -- stay aggressive -- and confident with her rotation.”

Aggressive and confident. That’s a good place to be two games into the WCWS.

Especally in the winner’s bracket.

 

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