History is made: Florida Gators softball wins program’s first National Championship

Senior right-handed pitcher Hannah Rogers did not start Tuesday night’s game for the Florida Gators, but her steady hand and tremendous command closed out the final two innings of the Women’s College World Series Championship Series, helping Florida softball (55-12) earn the first National Championship in program history on the back of a 6-3 win over the Alabama Crimson Tide (53-13).

The Gators swept the Crimson Tide in the best-of-three series with Rogers earning a 5-0 shutout win on Monday and finding her well-deserved place on the mound in the final exciting moments on Tuesday.

It was the first time in three WCWS Championship Series appearances that Florida won a single game (0-4 combined in 2009, 2011) yet the Gators were dominant at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

Florida outscored its opponents 81-10 in the 2014 NCAA Tournament with eight shutouts and six run-rule victories.

Rogers went 7-0 with a save in eight total appearances, giving up just four earned runs in 44 innings pitched while shutting out her adversaries in 42 of those frames. She was named 2014 WCWS Most Outstanding Player after the game.

Nevertheless, it was junior RHP Lauren Haeger received the call and subsequently got off to a rough start in the circle for UF, giving up back-to-back singles to open the game before a sacrifice fly advanced both base runners.

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Florida Gators softball advances to WCWS Championship Series with 6-3 win over Baylor

Another solid performance from senior right-handed pitcher Hannah Rogers led No. 5 seed Florida Gators softball (53-12) to a 6-3 victory over the No. 13 seed Baylor Bears (49-16) on Sunday, sending Florida to the Women’s College World Series Championship Series for the first time since 2011.

The Gators won three-straight WCWS games to earn the opportunity to play for the national title, outscoring their opponents 21-3 on the back of a trio of stellar performances from their ace in Rogers.

After stranding runners on base in each of the first two innings, Florida opened up its scoring in the third when sophomore center fielder Kirsti Merritt got on board with a walk, advanced to second on a groundout and scored as senior third baseman Stephanie Tofft smacked a stand-up double down to the wall in left-center.

Junior Brianna Little (2/3, 2 R) began the fourth with a stand-up triple on a grounder through the middle of the infield and scored on a squeeze bunt by sophomore catcher Aubree Munro (1/4, RBI), pushing the Gators ahead 2-0 midway through the contest.

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Grand slam lifts Florida over Baylor in WCWS

For the fifth time in seven 2014 NCAA Tournament games, No. 5 seed Florida Gators softball run-ruled an opponent. On Thursday afternoon in the opening game of the Women’s College World Series, the Gators accomplished the feat in spectacular fashion with a pinch-hit, walk-off grand slam sealing the victory.

Florida (51-12) jumped on the No. 13 seed Baylor Bears (47-15) early and kept the pressure on throughout the contest, earning an 11-0 win on the back of five shutout innings senior right-handed pitcher Hannah Rogers (5.0 IP, H, 3 BB, 6 K), who has now gone 26 consecutive innings – 21 in NCAA play – without surrendering a single run.

Defensive miscues and errors doomed Baylor early and often on Thursday. BU spotted UF three unearned runs in the first inning with a sacrifice fly by senior third baseman Stephanie Tofft (1/1, RBI, R) and two-RBI double from junior right fielder Bailey Castro (1/2, 2 RBI) giving the Gators a 3-0 lead.

Sophomore center fielder Kirsti Merritt (2/3, HR, RBI, 2 R) led off the third with a solo shot to center, and sophomore second baseman Kelsey Stewart (1/3, RBI, SB) connected on an RBI single in the fourth to push Florida’s advantage up to 5-0.

The Gators decided it would be best to call it a day early in the bottom of the fifth, opening the bottom frame by loading the bases on three-straight hits.

Freshman RF Justine McLean (0/1, RBI) legged out a fielder’s choice for an RBI, and sophomore first baseman Taylor Schwarz (0/2, RBI) earned one of her own after being hit by a pitch on an 0-2 count, leaving Florida one run away from a victory.

Head coach Tim Walton choosing to pinch hit freshman Chelsea Herndon for sophomore catcher Aubree Munro (1/2, R) proved to be an inspired decision as Herndon ended the game by jacking a grand slam to left center.

The Gators have outscored opponents 60-4 in seven NCAA Tournament games, only allowing runs to be scored in one of those contests.

UF advanced to face either No. 1 seed Oregon or No. 8 seed Florida State in a winner’s bracket game on Friday at 7 p.m. live on ESPN. The Gators went 1-0 against the Ducks and 1-1 against the Seminoles during the regular season.

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Florida Gators softball run-rules Washington Huskies 9-0 in Gainesville Super Regional

No. 5 seed Florida Gators softball (49-11) made quick work of the No. 12 seed Washington Huskies (36-14) on Saturday, ousting the visitors 9-0 in a five-inning, run-ruled win in the first game of the Gainesville Super Regional at Pressly Softball Stadium in Gainesville, Florida.

Senior right-handed pitcher Hannah Rogers (5.0 IP, 4 H, 2 BB, 5 K) tossed a complete game shutout for the Gators, which led 2-0 through three innings but broke out with a seven-run fourth to leave the Huskies in their dust.

Things got started for Florida in the fourth when sophomore catcher Aubree Munro singled to start the frame and junior shortstop Kathlyn Medina followed with a double down the left field line. A sacrifice fly from sophomore second baseman Kelsey Stewart (2/3, RBI, R) scored Munro from third, and Medina came around one batter later when senior third baseman Stephanie Tofft singled to shortstop.

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Florida softball sweeps Gainesville Regional; Gators set to host Super Regional

By Jordan McPherson – OnlyGators.com Contributor

No. 5 Florida Gators softball (48-11) is one step closer to making its sixth Women’s College World Series appearance in seven years after closing out a sweep of the Gainesville Regional with a victory on Sunday.

Breezing through its first two opponents at Pressly Softball Stadium in Gainesville, Florida, UF shut out the Central Florida Knights (43-18) in the regional final on Sunday, winning 7-0 and advancing to the Super Regional portion of the 2014 NCAA Tournament for the seventh time in an eight-year span.

Gators junior right-hander Lauren Haeger (7.0 IP, 5 H, 5 K) tossed a five-hit shutout in Sunday’s finale to pick up her 10th win of the season and drop her ERA to a team-best 1.57. After giving up back-to-back singles to open the bottom of the first, Haeger calmed down and retired the next 11 batters, only scatting five singles in the contest.

But her contribution to Florida’s win extended much further than the pitcher’s circle. Haeger (1/5, HR, 3 RBI, R) blasted her team-leading 19th home run of the season — a one out, two-run shot in the first inning — which was also her third homer in as many games during the Gainesville Regional.

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Florida softball wins six-straight to open season

By Mike Brandes – OnlyGators.com Contributor

No. 3 Florida Gators opened up the 2014 season with a clean sweep of the USF Wilson-DeMarini Tournament in Tampa, FL, winning six games over four days including a thriller over a ranked opponent.

Florida (6-0) outscored its competitors 40-13 over the weekend as junior right-handed pitcher Lauren Haeger, who was named Southeastern Conference Pitcher of the Week on Monday, shined by tossing her first-career no-hitter in the event’s penultimate matchup.

Starting off the season with a win for the eighth time in head coach Tim Walton’s nine-year tenure, the Gators topped the South Florida Bulls in their opening game. Senior RHP Hanna Rogers pitched seven innings, allowing three runs while recording six strikeouts. UF literally weathered the storm – a 25 minute rain delay – with its bats coming alive in the fourth inning.

Sophomore first baseman Taylor Schwarz led the way offensively with a bases-clearing three-RBI single in the fourth inning, which was part of a seven-run fourth for Florida. The Gators, which won 10-3, also benefited from some free passes. “We had 11 walks and five hit-by-pitches – that’s 16 free bases,” said Walton. “We had really solid plate discipline.”

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No. 2 Florida softball eliminates No. 14 Nebraska from WCWS with 9-8 win in 15-inning thriller

The fourth-longest game ever played at the Women’s College World Series ended in celebration for No. 2 Florida Gators softball, which needed 15 innings and more than five hours to prevail 9-8 and eliminate the No. 14 Nebraska Cornhuskers from the 2013 NCAA Tournament. Florida (58-8) lost two separate leads on Saturday before rallying to score two runs in the top of the 15th, exactly the number it needed to take down Nebraska (45-16) and continue its storybook season.

The Gators flashed offense by loading the bases in the third but did not score until the fifth, when UF posted all six of the runs it plated during regulation. An incredible bottom of the seventh kept the Cornhuskers in the game, and a run by each team in the 10th inning extended Saturday’s contest even further.

Junior right-handed pitcher Hannah Rogers (8.0 IP, 11 H, 7 R [6 ER], 3 BB, K) – two days after lasting less than an inning in Florida’s WCWS opener – showed a renewed focus for the first six innings but unraveled in the final frame of regulation. She returned in the 15th and gave up another run but held on for the save. Sophomore RHP Lauren Haeger (7.0 IP, 3 H, ER, 4 BB, 4 K) was terrific in innings 8-14, keeping the Gators in the contest and picking up the victory.

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Tennessee blasts Florida 9-2 in WCWS opener

No. 2 Florida Gators softball (57-8) is now one loss away from elimination in the Women’s College World Series portion of the 2013 NCAA Tournament after the No. 7 Tennessee Volunteers (50-10) took it to the home team early and often, pulling away for a dominant 9-2 victory in Thursday’s opening-round game.

Florida, which edged Tennessee two games to one during a regular-season series that consisted of three-straight extra-inning affairs, struggled with its pitching in the early going and was never able to recover.

Junior right-handed pitcher Hannah Rogers got the start for the Gators but immediately loaded the bases as she had trouble finding the strike zone. Rogers (0.1 IP, H, 3 ER, 3 BB) walked two and gave up a single to load the bases before walking home the Volunteers’ first run of the game and putting her team in a 1-0 hole.

Florida head coach Tim Walton pulled Rogers for sophomore Lauren Haeger, who gave up a two-run double to Melissa Brown that fronted Tennessee a 3-0 lead.

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