Tuesday June 3, 2014NATIONAL CHAMPS: Gators Roll Over Bama to Win WCWS
Kirsti Merritt is welcomed home after her three-run homer Tuesday night.
OKLAHOMA CITY -- In the biggest game of the season, Gators ace Hannah Rogers did not start.
Instead, she finished with a bang.
Within moments of fielding a ground ball back to the mound and throwing out Alabama's Jadyn Spencer for the final out, Rogers jumped and rolled around on the ground celebrating Florida's 6-3 win over the Crimson Tide.
The Gators were national champions. Florida won its first softball national title in the program's 18-year history and became only the second SEC team (Alabama, 2012) to claim the crown.
In an on-field interview shortly after the game, Rogers said she didn't fret when Florida coach Tim Walton opted to start Lauren Haeger and later inserted freshman Delanie Gourley in Game 2 of the WCWS Championship Series on Tuesday night.
Rogers threw a four-hit shutout in Game 1 Monday night to improve to 7-0 in the NCAA Tournament, needing only 80 pitches to give Florida its first win in the WCWS Championship Series.
"I was just trusting whatever he wanted to do," Rogers said. "I knew they would get the job done because they have worked hard all season long. We just stayed together. I'm just so proud of all the girls. I was just so excited [on the final out].
"It didn't really hit me [we won] until we finally made the play."
The Gators (55-12) chased Alabama ace Jaclyn Traina for the second consecutive night. This time, a four-run second inning capped by Gators outfielder Kirsti Merritt's three-run homer off Traina did the trick.
The Gators hit three home runs and scored 10 runs (nine earned) against Traina in 7 2/3 innings during her two starts in the championship series, pounding 14 hits against the All-American who surrendered only nine hits in her first three WCWS appearances.
With the Gators nursing a three-run lead Gourley replaced Haeger with one on and no out in the top of the fourth.
Haeger wasn't nearly as sharp as Rogers was in Monday night's 5-0 Game 1 win, but she managed to last three innings, giving up five hits and two runs while throwing 58 pitches.
When left fielder Briana Little committed UF's fourth error of game on a fly ball immediately after Gourley entered, Alabama had runners on second and third and the tying run at the plate.
Alabama eventually loaded the bases before Gourley got out of the jam on Kallie Case's ground ball to second baseman Kelsey Stewart, who bobbled the grounder briefly before throwing to first to escape the jam.
Florida fell behind 1-0 in the first Tuesday but quickly answered in the bottom of the inning when Stephanie Tofft cranked a 2-2 pitch from Traina into the left-field bleachers for the Gators' first run.
The Gators had made it to the WCWS Championship Series twice before but were swept both times, by Washington in 2009 and Arizona State in 2011.
This time, the Gators were the ones with the broom. Rogers, with her career winding down, held it most of the time.
--Tofft's first career home run in NCAA Tournament (in her 19th tourney game). Now has 11 RBI in 11 NCAA games this year.
--Gators hit .089 (4-for-45) with two runs scored in two regular-season losses vs. Traina. Gators hit .389 (14-for-36) (8-for-26 in Game 1, 6-for-10 in Game 2) with 10 runs (nine earned) vs. Traina at WCWS.
--The Gators turned two more double plays Tuesday, giving them a WCWS-record seven during their five-game stay in Oklahoma City.
--Merritt leads team in WCWS with .500 average (6-for-12) and tied for lead (Tofft) with two home runs.
--Hannah Rogers is the 2014 WCWS Most Outstanding Player. Four other Gators joined her on the WCWS All-Tournament team - Bailey Castro, Kirsti Merritt, Aubree Munro and Kelsey Stewart.
--Check back with GatorZone.com later for more extensive coverage of Florida's first softball national title.