The Gator softball team is now ONE win away from the program's FIRST EVER National Championship after defeating the Alabama Crimson Tide tonight 5-0 in Game 1 of the WCWS Finals. After going to the Finals two times prior in 2009 and 2011, this is the first time the Gators have won a game in the Finals.
Hannah Rogers was, once again, stellar for the Gators as she threw her seventh complete game shutout of the postseason to notch her 30th win of the season. She had a perfect game through four innings and would allow just four hits the entire game. She also struck out three Crimson Tide batters on the night.
The Gator defense was marvelous once again as they committed no errors and turned two double plays. Rogers fielded her position well as she scooped a ball to first base with her mitt in the sixth and turned a clutch double play on a ball hit back to her in the bottom of the seventh.
Offensively, the Gators were ready for the mighty task of facing Alabama's senior pitcher, Jaclyn Traina. Traina was the winning pitcher in both Alabama's victories over the Gators during the regular season.
The Gators cracked the Traina code this game as catcher Aubree Munro blasted a 1-0 pitch over the left field wall to give the Gators an early 1-0 lead. This was just Munro's third home run of the season and gave the Gators the early momentum they needed.
Knowing that just one run most likely won't cut it against the Tide, the Gators struck again in the fifth inning. Kelsey Stewart got the rally going with a two out bunt single and she was brought home on a double by sophomore Kirsti Merritt. Merritt would then score on a single by senior Stephanie Tofft. The Gators gave Hannah Rogers a little more breathing room with the lead now 3-0.
The Gators would add some more insurance runs in the seventh inning as Stephanie Tofft again came through with a sac fly that scored Kelsey Stewart. The final Gator run came from a Lauren Haeger double that plated Kirsti Merritt. This is a good sign for Gator fans as Haeger finally broke out of her 1-10 slump in the WCWS with a 2/4 performance and an RBI today.
After this loss, it's hard to say who Alabama will put on the mound for their do or die Game 2 after Traina's performance tonight. She didn't even go the full the seven innings as junior Leslie Jury came in to stop the bleeding in the seventh. Jury, the Crimson Tide's number two pitcher, was on the mound when the Tide dropped their only game of the regular season series to the Gators 7-1.
Florida fans all know who will be pitching for the Gators tomorrow as Hannah Rogers has been dominant this entire WCWS. She is definitely the overall MVP of the game but my offensive MVP for this game is sophomore Aubree Munro. She had two hits, with the big one being a home run. She helped jumpstart the Gator offense and sopped Jaclyn Traina from getting into any kind of rhythm early on in the game. I'll also note that Stephanie Tofft led the team in RBI's this game with two.
Florida's two seniors are doing a great job at leading the team. Rogers is doing it with her pitching on the mound and Tofft is doing it with her bat and her glove. The Gators will now look to close this series out and win their first ever National Championship as they take on Alabama for Game 2 at 8 p.m. The game can be seen on ESPN.
*All stats accredited to NCAA.com and Gatorzone.com