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Florida Dominant in WCWS Championship Series Opener on StrikeOut Cancer Night as UF Blows Past Alabama, 5-0
OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. – On Monday night at the ASA Hall of Fame Stadium in Oklahoma City, Okla., Florida (54-12) wasted zero time making a powerful statement during the opening game of the Women’s College World Series Championship Series by rolling past Alabama (53-12), 5-0.
NFCA All-American hurler Hannah Rogers (30-8) was outstanding in the circle for Florida, scattering four hits with three strikeouts during a complete-game shutout, while for Alabama, NFCA All-American Jaclyn Traina (26-4) suffered the loss after allowing four earned runs on eight hits with three walks and six strikeouts over 6.1 innings.
As part of the Orange & Blue’s eight-hit attack, third baseman Stephanie Tofft was 1-for-3 with two RBIs, catcher Aubree Munro went 2-for-3 with a solo HR and two RBIs, center fielder Kirsti Merritt was 1-for-3 with two runs scored, a double and an RBI, second baseman Kelsey Stewart was 2-for-3 with a pair of tallies and designated player Lauren Haeger was 2-for-4 with a two-bagger and an RBI. Second baseman Kaila Hunt led the Crimson Tide offense by posting a 2-for-3 effort at the dish.
Monday at the WCWS served as StrikeOut Cancer Night as many of those in attendance wore pink to demonstrate their support in the fight to beat cancer.
"I thought today was a great game, great crowd; nice to see everybody out there," Florida head coach Tim Walton said. "This is our first win in a game in a Championship Series, so it means a lot to get up here and make a great game out of the first game and make this a great series. Just proud of the way Hannah, obviously, starting off for us and doing a great job. And the defense; I can't say enough about how well our defense has been playing; just proud of the way they're taking leadership out there and doing a lot of nice things. And the clutch hit; Aubree stepping up and getting us on the board. Getting that first hit is the key to a lot of games. I know most people think it sounds easy, but getting that hit and not getting no-hit is awesome. And to break up the no‑hitter and the shutout and all the other stuff with it was huge. I thought she really had a really nice swing on a pitch that she could drive. I thought a lot of our hitters did. We struck out a few times, but overall I thought we stayed pretty true to the game plan."
After a quiet opening frame, Florida managed the game’s initial base runner for either team as right fielder Bailey Castro drew a one-out walk in the top of the second. Traina wouldn’t allow the Gators to get anything going, however, as the senior hurler finished off the inning with consecutive strikeouts of left fielder Briana Little and first baseman Taylor Schwarz.
‘Bama’s Traina suffered the first misfortune from the circle starting the top of the third as Florida catcher and No. 8 hitter Munro blasted a solo homer to left for a 1-0 lead. The big fly marked the first for Munro since back on Valentine’s Day (Feb. 14) at the Easton Desert Classic in Las Vegas, Nev. UF got another runner into scoring position with two outs following a Stewart walk, but stranded her at second.
With Rogers having retired the first nine she had faced, Florida tried to add another in the top of the fourth. Castro walked, and with two down, pinch runner Justine McLean swiped second to improve into scoring position. She never moved from that spot, however, as Traina struck Schwarz out swinging.
UF’s All-American hurler was virtually untouchable through four, rolling through the Tide line-up in order while successfully pitching into her defense.
It took a two-out outburst in the top of the fifth for Florida to take firm control of the contest, and it all started with a perfect bunt single from Stewart. Merritt stepped into the batter’s box and clubbed a ball past speedy Alabama center fielder Haylie McCleney to the wall in left center, plating Stewart for a 2-0 lead. The advantage soon expanded to three as Tofft followed immediately by delivering an RBI base knock to left.
Hunt became ‘Bama’s initial base runner and registered the Tide’s first hit of the contest with a single back through the middle starting the top of the fifth. Unfortunately for UA, Alabama’s offense couldn’t string anything together as a fielder’s choice and a 5-4-3 double play finished off the half-inning with no damage on the scoreboard.
Looking for some UF insurance, Stewart christened the top of the seventh with a single through the right side of the infield. On a Merritt bunt, Traina got to the ball but threw it past first into right field for an error as the Gators boasted runners at the corners with no one retired. Florida’s offense soon blew the game wide open as Tofft delivered a sacrifice fly and Haeger followed with an RBI double to the wall in right as UF’s lead grew to a commanding 5-0. The ended Traina’s time in the circle as Leslie Jury entered the match-up in relief. The new hurler managed to get the Tide out of the frame, but not before two runs had already crossed the plate.
With one final opportunity to extend the match-up, McCleney got the Crimson Tide off to a solid start with a leadoff single up the middle. The Gator defense again proved up to the task, however, turning a 1-6-3 twin killing to wipe the base paths clear. Right fielder Jadyn Spencer and Hunt managed consecutive two-out singles, but Fichtner grounded out to short to end the Florida victory.