Dooley: A game to remember


he Florida team including Stephanie Tofft, center facing camera, react after beating Nebraska in the fifteenth inning of their the Women's College World Series softball game at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium in Oklahoma City, Saturday, June, 1, 2013. (The Associated Press)

Published: Saturday, June 1, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, June 2, 2013 at 1:30 a.m.

OKLAHOMA CITY — In the seventh inning, Stephanie Tofft nearly made the play to win the game. Instead, she came to the dugout in tears.

Eight innings later, the Florida third baseman ended a classic game at the Women's College World Series by blocking third base and tagging Tatum Edwards to end the game.

“I don't think she touched the bag,” Tofft said. “I think she got my whole knee.”

Tofft took some cleats to the knee, but after Florida's 9-8, 15-inning win there was no pain. Tired, drained? Sure.

But for this young Florida team, Saturday night and Sunday morning showed the mettle of a group of young ladies who came so close to having one of the most agonizing defeats in Florida sports history.

“What they showed me tonight, I'll take them to battle any time,” said Florida coach Tim Walton.

The game ended at third base but it was so much more than the one play. Still, here was the game-winner — Gabby Banda hit a shot up the middle that ricocheted off UF pitcher Hannah Rogers and into left field. Sophomore Jess Damico tracked it down and threw to Tofft, who applied the tag.

The Gator fans in attendance went bonkers. The Nebraska fans were stunned. It was an amazing end to an amazing game.

It last 5 hours and 21 minutes. There were 534 pitches in the game and most of them seemed like they were loaded up with intensity. The starting pitcher got the save. And the goat became the hero.

Tofft's intentions were good when she tried to run down Banda as the Nebraska player sprinted to home on a bizarre play. A fly ball to center turned into a 8-2-4-5 put-out to end the game, but only for a split second. After Tofft touched Banda to end the game, the ball rolled away when her glove hit the playing surface allowing the tying run to score.

“It was definitely very deflating and very frustrating,” Tofft said. “I felt like I let the whole team down. But they had my back. I could feel the love.”

The play at the plate was the capper to a three-run seventh that allowed Nebraska to tie a game that looked like it was over with Florida up 6-3 and hannah Rogers on the mound.

“It sucked,” said freshman Kelsey Stewart. “But I never had any doubt we'd win that game.”

It looked like it was over again when Briana Little drilled a solo homer to left in the 10th. But Nebraska countered with one of its own, a blast to center by Taylor Edwards.

Rogers had pitched the first seven innings and Lauren Haeger pitched the second seven. Rogers went back in the circle for the 15th.

By then, Florida had taken the lead. Haeger's double was the big hit in the inning, but a grounder by Taylore Fuller was kicked into right field by shortstop Alicia Armstrong. It was her third error of the game and the sixth for Nebraska.

Rogers struggled for much of the night and hasn't been at her best in Oklahoma City. She gave up a run in the 15th but had two outs when Tatum Edwards walked to set up the final play.

“It was one of the most exciting games I've ever coached,” Walton said.

The game was supposed to be played in the afternoon but was pushed back by the tornadoes of Friday night. Florida won't get a lot of rest before it faces another elimination game Sunday at 1 p.m. EST.

“I'm not going to worry about that,” Walton said. “I just want to let them have their moment.”

Moment? How about moments? Because a game like this is something you replay over and over again. No matter how tired you are.

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