OKLAHOMA CITY – It took two extra innings, but Texas A&M advanced to the NCAA Championship Series with a 1-0, nine-inning victory over Florida on Sunday night at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium.
The Aggies (57-8) will face Arizona State in a best-of-three Championship Series that begins on Monday at 7 pm CDT at Hall of Fame Stadium. Florida completes its season with a 70-5 record. The Gators 70 wins are a new NCAA record for wins in a season.
The rematch turned into a pitchers duel between A&M’s Megan Gibson and Florida’s Stacey Nelson. The Aggies had their leadoff hitter on third base in the top of the first, but were unable to score. They also had a runner in scoring position in the second inning, but she could not reach third base. Meanwhile, Florida had just one hit in the first five innings, but she was unable to advance past second base as well.
In the bottom of the sixth, Florida threatened in a big way. After Aggie centerfielder Jami Lobpries made an outstanding diving catch to start the inning, consecutive singles by Kristina Hilberth, Kim Waleszonia and Aja Paculba loaded the bases. The Aggies were able to notch the second out of the inning on a fielders choice with the out at the plate, and Ali Gardiner flew out to deep left field to end the inning and the threat.
The Aggies would leave two runners on base in the top of the seventh but couldn’t get the timely hit and the game went into extra innings. In the eighth, Texas A&M’s Natalie Villarreal singled to start the inning, was sacrificed to second by Gibson and went to third on a ground out, but could not score.
The ninth inning saw the first run scored of the game. With two outs in the top half of the inning, Macie Morrow singled through the right side of the infield, setting the stage for left fielder Kelsey Spittler. Spittler, who had yet to record a hit in three previous WCWS games, knocked a triple just fair down the right field line, scoring Morrow from first base and giving A&M a 1-0 lead.
Things got exciting in the bottom half of the frame. Gardiner led off with a single, which was followed by a single from Corrie Brooks, giving the Gators runners on first and second with no outs. Mary Ratliff then grounded into an impressive 4-3 double play with Villarreal tagging Brooks before throwing to first for the second out. With pinch-runner Ami Austin on third base, Megan Bush would foul out to end the game.
Stacy Nelson finishes the season with a 47-5 record, pitching nine innings and striking out two while walking three, scattering six hits and allowing one run.
For Texas A&M, Megan Gibson is now 41-2. She pitched a nine-inning shutout, striking out six and walking one while scattering seven hits.
“That game was vintage Megan Gibson,” said Texas A&M coach Jo Evans. “She gave us a chance to find a way to score a run. I thought the double play (in the 9th inning) was a back-breaker. It made us believe that the ball game was ours.”