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No Second Comeback in the Cards for Baylor as Florida Advances to WCWS Championship Series, 6-3
OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. – Just hours after authoring one of the most thrilling comebacks in Women’s College World Series history, Baylor couldn’t pull of a second miracle as the Bears dropped a 6-3 decision to Florida on Sunday at the ASA Hall of Fame Stadium.
With its victory, UF now advances on to the WCWS Championship Series over June 2-4 to face whichever team emerges from the Alabama-Oregon side of the bracket.
NFCA All-American Hannah Rogers was solid for Florida, improving to 29-8 overall after allowing three earned runs on five hits with a walk and two strikeouts over seven innings. Her counterpart in the circle for Baylor, fellow NFCA All-American Whitney Canion, dropped to 31-12 after permitting six earned tallies on eight hits with three walks and five K’s in a complete-game effort.
Leading the UF offense was third baseman Stephanie Tofft (2-for-3 with a double and two RBIs), first baseman Taylor Schwarz (1-for-4 with a three-RBI double) and left fielder Briana Little (2-for-3, two runs, double, triple), while for Baylor, right fielder Kaitlynn Thumann went 1-for-3 with two RBIs and shortstop Jordan Strickland was 1-for-3 with an RBI double.
"First of all congratulate Baylor on a tremendous season, going through the regional and going through Athens to get here obviously says a lot about their program and their club," Florida head coach Tim Walton said. "And Whitney Canion, what a great ambassador to college softball. Just what she's been able to go through and how she represents, not only their university, but all student-athletes across the country. I think she's a first‑class individual. You know, proud of the way she represents Baylor and all she does, but I’ve got to give my kids credit. I thought they came out on a mission today, really played well on defense. I think that set the tone for us; made some nice plays.
"Hannah pitched a wonderful game and had a wonderful regular part of the World Series, I guess, the pool play part. Now we begin the championship. But Hannah is throwing the ball well; defensively great and got some nice clutch hits; Steph breaking that game open with the first RBI, Taylor Schwarz, two-out hit. Just a lot of two-out nice hits and RBIs and Aubree was in the back; great squeeze bunt to give us that two-run cushion. The little things win games here in the College World Series and just proud of our kids for believing in us and believing in themselves and in their abilities and not trying to do too much. Here we are getting a chance and an opportunity to play for a national championship."
After each team left a runner stranded during the opening frame, Florida registered the first major threat in the top of the second. Right fielder Bailey Castro opened things up by drawing with a walk and soon moved to third on a double to left off the bat of Little. On a slow roller out in front of the plate from Schwarz, Castro broke for the plate and ended up caught in a rundown for a big first out. With a pair of occupants stationed in scoring position against Canion, catcher Aubree Munro popped up and shortstop Katie Medina grounded out as UF missed out on a golden early opportunity.
Florida didn’t waste its second scoring chance, however, as a Kirsti Merritt walk in the top of the third was cashed via an RBI double to left center from Tofft as UF nabbed a 1-0 lead.
With Rogers keeping Baylor’s offense in check, the Florida advantage expanded to two runs in the fourth. Little ripped a shot up the middle that eluded the Baylor center fielder and rolled to the wall for a leadoff triple. With one down, the Gators pulled off a perfect squeeze as Munro dropped a bunt for a single allowing Little the opportunity to race home easily from 60 feet away.
A Tofft bunt single and two hit batters in a row came back to haunt Baylor with two outs in the fifth as Schwarz unloaded the bases with a three-run double to right center, making it 5-0.
Following the stirring Saturday comeback from a seven-run deficit against Kentucky, a case could be made that Baylor had Florida just where it wanted them. With one out in the bottom of the fifth, Smith christened what turned into a major scoring outburst by singling through the right side. Strickland stepped into the batter’s box and drove a pitch down the line into the left field corner for an RBI double as pinch runner Justine Young scored to cut UF’s lead to 5-1. BU boasted runners at first and third with still just one retired as Robin Landrith outdueled Rogers for a walk. That set the stage for a two-RBI single down the right field line from Thumann as the Bears clawed their way back within two.
Florida immediately initiated a response with one down in the top of the sixth as consecutive singles by pinch hitter Taylore Fuller and Stewart and a Merritt hit by pitch packed the bags full of Gators. Following a pop-up on the infield from designated player Lauren Haeger, Canion struck Tofft with an offering, forcing in UF’s sixth run of the match-up. A strikeout ended the threat but not before Florida had improved its advantage to 6-3.
Another thrilling comeback wasn’t to be for Baylor on Sunday as a Smith strikeout, a Strickland groundout and a routine fly ball to left from Landrith ended the Gator triumph.