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WCWS: Walk-Off Grand Slam Sends Gators to Championship Series

OKLAHOMA CITY – A walk-off grand slam from Florida’s Ali Gardiner placed the Gators in the program’s first NCAA Championship Series with a 6-5 victory over Alabama on Sunday evening at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium. Florida (63-3) advances to Monday’s championship series against either Georgia or Washington. Alabama concludes its season with a 54-11 record. 

Alabama struck first in the contest, plating a run in the top of the third inning. Jennifer Fenton led off the inning with a single, and took an extra base on an outfield error. She went to third on a ground out by Brittany Rogers and came home on a single up the middle by Kelley Montalvo to give the Crimson tide a 1-0 lead. 

The top of the fourth saw the Gators break up Kelsi Dunne’s no-hitter in a big way. Dunne walked the leadoff batter, Francesca Enea, then gave up a home run to Kelsey Bruder, giving Florida a 2-1 lead. 

That score held until the top of the fifth inning when the Crimson Tide put together an impressive two-out rally. Leadoff hitter Rogers sparked the rally with an infield single. She stole second base and scored on a Lauren Parker single to tie the game. Kelley Montalvo followed with a single and Charlotte Morgan walked to load the bases and the go-ahead run scored when Cassie Reilly-Bocca was hit by a pitch. Ashley Holcombe followed with a two-RBI double to score Montalvo and Morgan, giving Alabama a 5-2 lead after four and a half innings. 

Alabama’s Kelsi Dunne managed in the bottom of the fifth and sixth innings and an impressive catch by Florida right fielder Kelsey Bruder saved a sixth Crimson Tide run in the top of the seventh inning. 

In the bottom of the seventh, the Gators leadoff hitter Aja Paculba led off with a walk before Francesca Enea connected on a one-out single. After Kelsey Bruder fouled out for the second out of the inning, Corrie Brooks drew a walk to load the bases for Ali Gardiner, who connected on a walk-off grand slam home run. 

Alabama’s Kelsi Dunner struck out five during her 6.2 innings in the circle and finishes the season with a 28-5 record. 

Florida ace Stacey Nelson started the game, but was removed after five innings, having struck out five while allowing eight hits and five runs, four of them earned. Stephanie Brombacher tossed two innings of shutout softball, striking out four and allowing one hit. She improves to 22-0 on the season.