Hannah Rogers took care of business again today on the mound as she tossed another complete game. Her impressive consecutive inning shutout streak ended at 37 innings today when Baylor scored three runs in the bottom of the fifth inning to narrow the Gator lead to 5-3. Despite a rough fifth inning, Rogers was able to keep her poise for the rest of the game and notch her 29th win of the year.
Florida continued to prove why they are the best defensive team in the country with another errorless game. Out of all the 21 outs recorded by the Gator defense, I'd say the most impressive one came from senior Stephanie Tofft. Playing the hot corner at third base, Tofft dove to her right to catch a screaming line drive hit at her. The play gave the Gators the second out of the inning and should be a Top 10 nominee on SportsCenter.
Offensively, like they have all tournament, the Gators struck first. Stephanie Toft knocked in Kirsti Merritt in the third to give the Gators an early 1-0 lead. The Gators would boost the lead to 2-0 the very next inning when Aubree Munro bunted in Briana Little, who tripled to start off of the inning.
The most important moment of the game, however, came in the fifth inning. With the bases loaded in the top of the fifth inning and two outs, Taylor Schwarz strode to the plate. She was 0-2 on the day already and I remembered a few earlier games this postseason when the sophomore first baseman didn't deliver with the bases loaded. Fortunately for the Gators, Schwarz forgot all about her offensive struggles and roped a bases clearing double in the gap to up the Gator lead to 5-0. She was thrown out trying to advance to third to end the inning.
Schwarz's hit proved to be critical as Baylor scored three runs in the bottom of the inning. If Schwarz doesn't come up clutch, then the Gators are facing a 3-2 deficit going into the sixth inning. Even though she went 1-4, Taylor Schwarz is my offensive MVP for this game for delivering in crunch time when her team needed it.
Now, the moment we have all been waiting for is here. It's an all SEC final as the #5 Florida Gators (53-12) will battle the #2 Alabama Crimson Tide (53-11) for the National Championship. The Gators and Tide met earlier in a three game series in Gainesville. Alabama took two of the three games to win the series. Things have changed much since that March 21-23 weekend series. The Gators have peaked at the right time and will ride this momentum into there rematch against the Tide.
My only concern for the Gators going forward is number of runners left on base. In today's game, the Gators left nine runners on base. They have to lower that number in the Championship Series if they want to beat a team as formidable as Alabama. This series should be a classic, and I anticipate that it will go three games with the Gators winning the series 2 games to 1.
Before I end this article, I would like to congratulate the Baylor Bears on a great season and their comeback against the Kentucky Wildcats. Down 7-0 in the sixth inning of their elimination game, Baylor rallied to tie the game and won the game 8-7 in eight innings. Baylor's improbable win vs Kentucky is the greatest comeback in WCWS history and is something that the Bears should be very proud of. They end their season at 49-16.
*All stats accredited to Gatorzone.com and NCAA.com