No. 1 Florida Gators softball had to sweat until the final out but eventually came through with a 3-2 victory over the No. 3 Michigan Wolverines on Monday night in the first game of the 2015 Women’s College World Series Championship Series in Oklahoma City.
The win was the Gators’ 15th consecutive NCAA Tournament victory, tying a national record. It also snapped a 28-game win streak held by the Wolverines.
With senior Lauren Haeger off the mound and on the bench resting, Florida freshman right-handed pitcher Aleshia Ocasio held Michigan scoreless for the first five innings of the game. Ocasio (6.0 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 4 BB, 3 K) faltered in the sixth, giving up two runs, but had plenty of run support from Haeger (2/3, HR, 3 RBI, R), who was responsible for all of the Gators’ runs on Monday.
“I was a little nervous, but this is what I came here for. I was ready,” Ocasio told ESPN after the contest.
Florida got started in the bottom of the first, taking advantage of a leadoff single by junior second baseman Kelsey Stewart and an error on Michigan’s first baseman. With Stewart (1/3, R) on second, Haeger approached and fought off pitch after pitch, taking the 12th one she saw deep to left field for her third WCWS home run, a two-run shot that gave UF an early 2-0 lead.
An opportunity to blow open a lead came up for the Gators in the third when Haeger hit a double into the gap to plate freshman left fielder Nicole DeWitt, who scored from first after getting on with a one-out blooper single. Florida would go on to load the bases with two outs but left them juiced, ending the inning with a 3-0 advantage.
After being shutout for five innings, the Wolverines cut their deficit in the sixth, loading the bases with two outs for shortstop Abby Ramirez, who powered a two-run single up the middle to make it 3-2. Center fielder Sierra Lawrence then put some air under a ball with runners on first and second, but DeWitt (1/3, R) made a solid grab at the track to end the frame and stop the bleeding for the Gators.
Sophomore left-handed pitcher Delanie Gourley came on for Florida in the seventh and found herself in a jam with runners on the corners and no outs after a walk, passed ball and single. A hard-hit grounder corralled by senior SS Katie Medina was the first out, Gourley (1.0 IP, H, BB, K) came back with a strong strikeout for number two, and Medina picked up an assist on a 6-3 grounder to seal the victory for the Gators and end it with a runner 60 feet away from tying the game for UM.
Florida (59-6) and Michigan (59-7) will go head-to-head in the second WCWS Championship Series game (best-of-three series) on Tuesday at 8 p.m. The contest will air live nationally on ESPN as UF attempts to win back-to-back national titles.