Georgia walks off against Florida to advance to CWS


Georgia Bulldogs batter Kaylee Puailoa hits a two-run walk-off home run against the Florida Gators during the second game of NCAA Super Regional on Friday, May 27, 2016 in Gainesville, Fla. Georgia won 3-2 to eliminate Florida and advance to the Women's College World Series in Oklahoma City. Matt Stamey/Gainesville Sun

Matt Stamey/Staff photographer
Published: Friday, May 27, 2016 at 6:05 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, May 27, 2016 at 6:05 p.m.

It wasn't supposed to end this way.

Not on their home field.

Not now.

Not this way.

They were supposed to be the ones dogpiling on the warm clay and getting ready for a flight to Bricktown.

Not someone else.

Certainly not one of their biggest rivals.

But it ended here, in front of the fans who loved them so, in the stadium where so many great things happened, including two national championship celebrations.

The amazing run by Florida's seniors ended Friday in front of a crowd that was sunned and stunned. Georgia pinch-hitter Kaylee Puailoa's walk-off two-run homer ended Florida's season, as the Bulldogs advanced to the Women's College World Series with a 3-2 win.

Her homer came with two out in the seventh and Florida one strike away from forcing a third and deciding game.

Instead, she decided it.

Instead of tears of joy, there were sobs in disbelief for the Gator players. Senior Aubree Munro, behind the plate, knew when the ball was hit it could be trouble.

Then, she watched the end of her college career sail over the centerfield fence.

“With Kirsti (Merritt) in center, you thought there was a chance,” Munro said, pausing to fight through thick tears. “From the time we got here, Kirsti was the one who would go through the wall for us.

“Hats off to Georgia. Who comes up pinch-hitting and hits a walk-off homer?”

Puailoa had spent the whole game in the dugout, pestering her fellow left-handed hitters for information about the pitches UF starter Aleshia Ocasio was firing.

Then, she got her chance. And on an 0-2 pitch, delivered.

“Possibly, a rise ball,” said the young lady Georgia calls Moose, her jersey smeared with eye black from the celebration. “I'm thinking it was right down the middle.”

Florida seniors made so much history during their careers. They made some more Friday, becoming the first No. 1 seed to be swept in a Super Regional and only the second (Alabama in 2010) not to make it to Oklahoma City.

“I'm really proud of this senior class,” said Florida coach Tim Walton. “Not only what they did, but what they left behind.”

Walton shook up his lineup for Friday's game, dropping Kelsey Stewart out of the leadoff spot for the first time in her UF career. Stewart came into the game with only four hits in her last 21 at-bats and went 0-for-2 in the game.

Still, Florida managed two runs off Georgia starter Chelsea Wilkinson and it looked like it might be enough.

“We weren't comfortable with a 2-1 lead,” Munro said.

They were fortunate to have that.

In the fifth inning, singles by Ocasio and Nicole DeWitt gave UF runners on the corners before Wilkinson hit Munro and then Taylore Fuller with pitches to bring home UF's first run of the series. Amanda Lorenz then grounded out to give UF a 2-1 lead.

But Ocasio couldn't hold it.

“We did better (against Wilkinson),” Walton said. “But we didn't do enough.”

It was an uncharacteristic game for a team that won 56 games with pitching and defense. Florida botched a pair of pop-ups in the infield, the first leading to the ejection of Georgia assistant Tony Baldwin and the second leading to a solo homer by catcher Katie Browne in the second.

With two runners on in the first, Ocasio got Alex Hugo to pop up near the plate. Fuller and Munro both went for the ball, collided, and it bounced away.

Home plate umpire Tayna Garig ruled the ball foul and Baldwin was ejected after screaming at Garig. Ocasio got out of the inning, but in the second, Fuller and freshman shortstop Alex Voss let Browne's pop up drop to the ground before it spun back foul. One pitch later, Browne hit only her third homer of the season.

A high throw from Voss with one out in the seventh pulled Taylor Schwarz barely off the bag to set up the dramatic finish.

“We gave them five outs in the game,” Walton said, “and it cost us.”

Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at pat.dooley@gvillesun.com. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.

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