Playing and winning three elimination games on their way through the 2011 Women’s College World Series, No. 4 Florida Gators softball defeated the No. 2 Alabama Crimson Tide twice on Sunday to advance to the event’s Championship Series beginning on Monday. The Gators (56-11), after dismantling the Crimson Tide (53-11) with their bats by a tune of 16-2 earlier in the afternoon, utilized strong pitching and timely hitting to earn a 9-2 victory in the evening.
Freshman right-handed pitcher Hannah Rogers (36-7) retired the first 11 batters she faced and threw six shutout innings before allowing a pair of runs. She tossed a complete game, struck out seven and gave up only four hits and one base on balls.
Florida took it to Alabama right out of the gate once again on Sunday. Junior center fielder Michelle Moultrie (2-4, R) led off with a single to right, advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by senior catcher Tiffany DeFelice (0-2, BB), and found her way home when senior left fielder Kelsey Bruder stepped up and hit a two-run homer to right-center. Sophomore right fielder Brittany Schutte wanted in on the fun and hit a solo shot to right-center to give her team an early 3-0 advantage.
The Gators increased the pressure on the Crimson Tide just two innings later. Bruder reached base after being hit by a pitch, and Schutte (2-4, HR, RBI, 2 R) moved her to second by singling to right. Senior first baseman Megan Bush (1-3, BB) singled to left to load the bases, and freshman shortstop Cheyenne Coyle (1-3, 2 RBI) hit a ball hard up the middle to score both runners and give UF a 5-0 lead.
The first five runs allowed were all attributed to Crimson Tide pitcher Kelsi Dunne, who gave up six hits and walked one while striking out three in two innings. She was tagged for a total of 11 earned runs in just 2.1 combined innings of action on Sunday.
Looking to extend their lead even further, Florida found themselves with runners on first and second with one out in the top of the fourth. Bruder (2-2, HR, 3 RBI, 3 R) hit a long fly ball to deep right-center that was eventually nabbed, but freshman third baseman Kasey Fagan (1-3, R) used it as an opportunity to tag up and score all the way from second base, putting the Gators ahead 6-0.
With two on and two out in the top of the seventh, UF struck one last time. Senior second baseman Aja Paculba (2-4, HR, 3 RBI, R) stepped up and sent a ball flying out of the park, hitting a three-run homer and capping another top-notch performance from the Orange and Blue offense.
Rogers kept Alabama off the bases through six but got tagged for a few hits in the seventh. She allowed two runs before closing out the game with a strikeout to cap her stellar showing. Bruder tied a WCWS record for most total runs scored in the event (eight), and Florida as a team has scored as many runs (41) as every other team in the WCWS combined. The Gators’ 41 runs are currently second-most in WCWS history.
Florida advances to the Championship Series and will play for the NCAA Championship for the second time in three seasons. They will take on No. 1 Arizona State (58-6), which earned a 6-5 walk-off victory against UF on Friday, in the three-game series beginning Monday at 8 p.m. live on ESPN2.