Gator softball aims to ward off elimination at WCWS

Florida pitcher Hannah Rogers (13) is 33-6 overall this season with a 1.56 ERA with 238 strikeouts.

Brad McClenny/Staff photographer
Published: Saturday, June 1, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, May 31, 2013 at 8:56 p.m.
OKLAHOMA CITY — It's already been a long week for the Florida softball team. On Friday night, it got longer. Because of severe weather including a tornado that touched down just south of Oklahoma City, the two games scheduled for Friday night at the Women's College World Series were cancelled. Florida players and coaches were in Norman, Okla., 20 miles south of Oklahoma City for a team dinner and were sheltered at the Oklahoma football stadium before returning to Oklahoma City. Other teams in the WCWS were in hotels in downtown Oklahoma City and were sent to basements and shelters.

As the sirens sounded, members of the Oklahoma team, which was scheduled to play Friday night, were in the lobby. Several of them were in tears and were comforted by Oklahoma coach Patty Gasso. They had seen first-hand the destruction in Moore, Okla., almost two weeks ago. Florida will now play an elimination game against Nebraska at 7 p.m. on Saturday. The Gators will hope for a better result than the opener of the WCWS, which broke an eight-game postseason winning streak. Against Tennessee, they committed two big errors, received an uncharacteristic short start from pitcher Hannah Rogers and left nine runners on base. “We came out ready to play,” said pitcher and designated player Lauren Haeger. “I know it's a lot of our first times being here. It was a little nerve-racking at first. But now that we've all been there, I think we're going to come out with the same fire that we have all season. We're a team that never dies and we never quit. “We have so much fight and so much heart and we back each other up 100 percent, and I think that really helps us a lot. I have a lot of confidence that we can bounce back from this.” Florida coach Tim Walton doesn't believe that his team's nerves were the problem Thursday. The problem, he said, was Tennessee. “The Friday of our regional and the Saturday of our Super Regional, I saw some nerves,” Walton said. “They were hesitant, shaken. But I didn't see that Thursday. Nothing like that at all. It was just one of those days against one of those teams. Tennessee sped up the game. “Hannah was the Hannah we've seen all season. But she couldn't pitch her way out of it. Tennessee just didn't chase pitches.” On Friday, the team practiced and had a meeting before going to Norman. During that meeting, Walton had a simple message for his players. “I told them that I expect them to play better,” he said. “You can't control wins and losses but I expect them to make the plays they didn't make on Thursday. If we're going to keep playing, we have to play better.” Nebraska, now 45-15, was two outs away from advancing into the winner's bracket. Instead, the Cornhuskers lost in eight innings. “They play really hard,” Walton said. “They come at you a little bit. They are a fun team to watch because they play with a reckless abandon, which is a good thing. They're willing to make mistakes trying to make spectacular plays. “We just have to go out and put everything we have into this one game.”

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