UF wins 15-inning thriller

Florida's Lauren Haeger reacts as she scores past Nebraska's Taylor Edwards in the fifteenth inning during the Women's College World Series in Oklahoma City on Saturday. (The Associated Press)

Published: Saturday, June 1, 2013 at 9:25 p.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, June 2, 2013 at 12:48 a.m.
OKLAHOMA CITY — Florida has only played two games in the Women's College World Series. It has just seemed like more. The Gators won a classic on Saturday night/Sunday morning when Nebraska's sixth error of the night allowed Florida to score twice and win the game 9-8 in 15 innings. Nebraska had a runner thrown out at third to end the game in dramatic fashion. With runners on first and third, Chiefland High alum Taylore Fuller ripped a grounder to the left of shortstop Alicia Armstrong. The ball caromed off Armstrong's glove and into right field as two runs scored. The win allowed the Gators to avoid their first two-and-out in the WCWS in the history of the program. And to avoid a loss that would have haunted them all offseason.

The Gators needed three tries at getting three outs to win the game, finally getting it done when Hannah Rogers pitched the 15th after starting the game and pitching the first seven innings. Even then, Rogers gave up a run before finishing off the Cornhuskers. Brianna Little had appeared to save Florida from a gut-wrenching loss when she homered in the top of the 10th inning. Florida had gone 194 plate appearances without a home run before Little launched a long one just inside the foul pole. But Taylor Edwards homered to center off reliever Lauren Haeger to lead off the bottom of the 10th to tie the game. Haeger then worked out of a bases-loaded jam with one out. Florida plays another elimination game today at 1 p.m. against Texas. Earlier in the game, the Gators actually beat Nebraska … for a split second. In the bottom of the seventh, Stephanie Tofft's diving attempt to tag Gabby Banda near home plate appeared to give Florida a 6-5 win. But when Tofft's glove hit the ground, the ball rolled out and the tying run scored. The play capped a wild and crazy inning during which Nebraska scored three times against Florida's Hannah Rogers. The bottom of the seventh saw Nebraska load the bases on two singles and a walk. Centerfielder Kirsti Merritt made a diving attempt at one of those singles but it was ruled a no-catch. After a single scored one run, a fly to center by Brooke Thompson was caught by Merritt for the second out. Merritt fired home and her throw beat Tatum Edwards. But Edwards slid around the tag. Catcher Aubrey Munro threw to second to try to get the runner there. Kelsey Stewart caught it, tried to make the tag and then threw to third where she had Banda caught off the base. The game was as good as over. Except that it wasn't. Tofft chased Banda home rather than throw to the catcher and the result was a run for Nebraska. In a six-run fifth inning that seemed to give Florida command of the game, the Gators unveiled a new weapon. The fielder's choice. The Gators scored six runs in the top of the fifth, four of them coming on grounders that could have been outs. Trailing 2-0, Florida got an RBI single from Tofft, who reached base seven times in the game, for the first run of the inning. Lauren Haeger then hit a grounder to third, but Banda, a member of the Big 12 All-Defensive team, tried to tag Kirsti Merritt going to third. Merritt avoided the tag and the throw to first was late. Kelsey Horton then nubbed a grounder to third and Banda threw home. But Merritt beat the throw. Taylore Fuller then hit a grounder to short but Alice Armstrong threw it wide of second to allow another run to score. After a walk, Little hit a grounder that forced a runner at second but scored Horton from third. Pinch-hitter Bailey Castro singled home another run to cap the inning.

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