After seven hard fought innings, the score between the #4 Auburn Tigers and the #1 Florida Gators remained tied. After holding Auburn in the top of the eighth, the Gators utilized three walks to load the bases with just one out. A return trip to the WCWS Finals was now just 60 feet away. True freshman Kayli Kvistad strode to the plate and smacked a 1-1 pitch to center field.
The ball was caught and senior pinch runner, Francesca Martinez, took off towards the plate. Auburn center fielder, Morgan Estell, threw a rocket to the plate to gun down Martinez and end the inning. The Gator celebration would have to wait just a little longer.
After Auburn stranded runners on first and second to end the top of the ninth, the bottom of the Florida lineup went to work in the bottom of the inning. Junior Aubree Munro walked and was thrown out at second on sophomore Justine McLean's sacrifice bunt attempt. Now representing the winning run at first, McLean took second base on a wild pitch to Kelsey Stewart. The junior SEC Player of the Year, however, would not be the hero as she popped up to shortstop for the second out of the inning.
The game now rested in the hands of true freshman Nicole Dewitt, who was 0-4 up to that point. The lefty settled in the box and hit the second pitch she saw into shallow left field. It dropped in for a base hit and McLean raced around third base and headed for home as Auburn left fielder, Tiffany Howard, fielded the ball and threw it to the plate. McLean slid into home and beat the throw to score the game winning run! The Gators stormed the field to mob both her and the hero in young Dewitt.
Great teams always find ways to win and it was no different for the defending National Champions. Until Dewitt's walk off hit, the last Gator run had come in the fourth inning off of a Taylore Fuller solo home run in the fourth inning that tied the game at two a piece. After that the Gator offense went dry until the ninth.
Pitching and defense carried the Gators today as senior Lauren Haeger threw all nine innings and gave up two runs on 11 hits with six strike outs. She had tremendous support from her defense today as junior outfielder Kirsti Merritt threw out two Auburn runners at the plate! The rest of the Gator defense was a tad shaky this game as they made two errors after committing none in their first two WCWS games. Florida will need to clean this up to take home a second consecutive National Championship.
After such an exhilarating victory, the #1 Florida Gators (58-6) will need to turn right around and get refocused as they will be playing the #3 Michigan Wolverines (59-6) in the WCWS Finals. Michigan has had a phenomenal season and cruised through the WCWS in the similar fashion that Florida has.
This will be an exciting series to watch and the first game will be Monday, June 1st, at 8 p.m. It can been seen on ESPN2.
As a side note, Florida and Michigan faced each other twice in the regular season. They first squared off in the opening game of the season, with the Gators winning 2-1 in Gainesville. They then met again in Gainesville on March 5, with the Gators winning this game 7-4.
For the Auburn Tigers, they conclude a fantastic season at 56-11. They were the SEC Conference Champions and missed out on the regular season title by just a game to Florida. Their program is heading in the right direction and there is a good chance Auburn will be back in Oklahoma City next season!
Joining Auburn on the trip home are the LSU Tigers, who were eliminated by Michigan. They finish the season 51-14 and will most likely be back in Oklahoma City next season as well.
*All stats accredited to NCAA.com & Gatorzone.com
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