Florida blanks Tide in WCWS finals opener


Florida second baseman Kelsey Stewart throws to first base after forcing out Alabama's Jordan Patterson (6) in the fifth inning of an NCAA Women's College World Series softball tournament game in Oklahoma City, Monday, June 2, 2014. Florida won the first game of the best-of-three championship series, 5-0. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

Published: Monday, June 2, 2014 at 10:29 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, June 2, 2014 at 10:29 p.m.

OKLAHOMA CITY — They came into Monday's opening game of the Women's College World Series finals as two irresistible forces throwing a very movable object.

Facts

WCWS

What: Game 2 of best-of-three championship series. UF leads 1-0.
Who: Florida (54-12) vs. Alabama (53-12)
When: 8 p.m. Tuesday
Where: ASA Hall of Fame Stadium, Oklahoma City
TV: ESPN
Radio: AM-1230

Florida ace Hannah Rogers and Alabama's Jaclyn Traina had cruised through the postseason with hardly a challenge. It had all the makings of a pitcher's duel.

The pitching showdown turned out to be one-sided at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium as the Gators gradually beat up on Traina for a 5-0 win, and Rogers shut down Alabama's bats.

Fifth-seeded Florida (54-12) is one win away from the national championship, the school’s first in softball. Second-seeded Alabama (53-12) has to bounce back and win tonight to force a decisive third game Wednesday.

"You can tell by my voice I'm not really excited yet," UF coach Tim Walton said, "because there's really nothing to be excited about. We've won one game. It's a race to two in this series. If we get that 'W' (today) you'll hear a different voice."

Rogers (30-8) allowed four hits but benefited from a pair of double plays to erase most of Alabama's meager offense.

"She's lights-out," catcher Aubree Munro said. "She's on a mission, and she's honestly fueling our whole team right now."

The pitcher's dueled up to expectations early in the game, with both All-Americans cruising through the first two innings.

Florida was the first to break the deadlock in the top of the third. Traina left a 1-0 pitch hanging across the middle of the plate to Munro, and the catcher smashed it over the fence in left field to give the Gators a 1-0 lead.

Second baseman Kelsey Stewart ignited Florida's first big outburst with a two-out bunt single in the fifth inning. Outfielder Kirsti Merritt followed with an RBI double and and third baseman Stephanie Tofft jumped on the next pitch for an RBI single, giving UF a 3-0 lead.

Rogers was perfect through four innings, retiring the first 12 batters she faced in order. Alabama senior second baseman Kaila Hunt broke up Rogers' perfect game with a single up the middle to start the fifth, but Florida later turned a double play to end the inning.

Florida knocked Traina out in the seventh. Stewart singled to right and Merritt reached on an error when Traina's throw to first on a bunt ended up in right field, moving Stewart to third base. Tofft lifted a sacrifice fly to left to score a run, and Lauren Haeger doubled to right to up UF's lead to 5-0 and end Traina's outing.

Traina (26-4) gave up eight hits with six strikeouts and three walks after having allowed just one earned run in her first three games during the World Series

Florida turned another double play in the seventh after Alabama center fielder Haylie McCleney hit a leadoff single, and Alabama added two more singles before UF got the final out.

Rogers (30-8) held Alabama to four hits with three strikeouts and no walks. She has tossed three shutouts in the WCWS.

“We worked hard all season to get here and continue to play like it’s another game, I know it’s not a national championship, but keep that mentality — to play like it’s another game,” Rogers said in a TV interview. “To play for my teammates.”

NOTE: Rogers improved to 7-0 with a 0.50 ERA (three earned runs in 42 innings pitched) and 28 strikeouts in the NCAA tournament, including six shutouts. … UF has shut out eight of 10 opponents in the NCAA tournament and outscored foes by a combined margin of 75-7 during that span. … It was UF’s first win in the WCWS championship series, after losing to Washington in 2009 and Arizona State in 2011. The Gators are 2-2 against their SEC rivals this season.

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