Special to Gatorsports.com
OKLAHOMA CITY — Top-seeded Florida followed the same script Sunday it brought to ASA Hall of Fame Stadium to advance to the championship series – unhittable pitching and plenty of offense in its 5-2 semifinal win over Washington.
Senior pitcher Delanie Gourley (22-4), making her first career start in a WCWS game, struck out 10 against just one walk and two hits. The two runs were unearned. Kayli Kvistad drove in three runs to give Gourley enough support.
“It’s up to the players,” UF coach Tim Walton said. “Our coaching staff does a really good job of preparing and putting together a plan, but the players have to execute it. They have to buy into it, and they have to be able to control their heartbeat on this stage.
“I’ve always said it, that this is a big deal playing on this stage, and the team that plays the most normal has got a chance to win, and I think we’ve been able to do that. I think our players have been able to just buy into themselves and be confident, and again, some people peak in the beginning of the season, some people peak in the middle of the season, and some teams never peak, and if your team can peak at the right time and get some confidence towards the end, you’ve got a chance, and now we’ve got our team in position to have a chance.”
Florida (58-8) will play for the national championship against defending national champion Oklahoma (59-9), a 4-2 winner over Oregon (54-8) in the other semifinal. The best-of-three championship series starts at 7 p.m. Monday (ESPN). UF is playing for its third national championship in four seasons.
“They are a really great program, so we knew it was not going to be easy at all,” Gourley said of Washington. “But we were feeling really good all week. Our vibe, our defense, our offense, our pitching, we were feeling really good, so just to have a team like this behind my back to go in for my first start, I couldn’t have been any more confident today than I was.”
Kvistad set the tone for Florida in the top of the first inning when she drilled her second home run of the WCWS, her ninth of the season, for a 1-0 lead.
The Gators continued the hit parade in the second inning when they scored three runs for a 4-0 advantage. Amanda Lorenz hit a run-scoring single and Kvistad followed with a two-run single.
UF teed off on Washington ace Taran Alvero (34-9), belting five hits for the four runs in 1.1 innings. Madi Schreyer came in in relief.
“Just to finally give our pitching staff some cushion and some breathing room really means a lot to our offense,” Lorenz said.
Florida made it 5-0 in the fifth on Janell Wheaton’s RBI single after Nicole DeWitt singled and moved to second on Aleshia Ocasio’s sacrifice bunt.
Gourley had two strikes on Julia DePonte with two outs in the seventh before DePonte hit a two-run homer for the Huskies (50-14). The two unearned runs were the first runs Florida has allowed in the World Series. A batter had reached on a fielding error before DePonte’s hit.