Analysts, average fans and just about anyone with an eye on the Women’s College World Series thought Florida coach Tim Walton had lost his mind Tuesday night.
Hannah Rogers was in the middle of one of the most dominant postseason pitching performances in tourney history, but Walton went to his second-string arm to start the potential clinching game of the WCWS championship series.
Compounding the issue, the Florida defense played its worst game in weeks.
Yet fifth-seeded Florida still found a way to win its first softball national title with a 6-3 win over second-seeded Alabama for a 2-0 series sweep before a crowd of 7,810 at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium.
Two Gator home runs, and 12 hits in all, helped ease the worries about their suddenly shaky defense, which hadn’t committed an error at the WCWS prior to accounting for four Tuesday.
It wasn’t a typical national championship-clinching victory, but until this week, a “typical” WCWS trip for the Gators ended with a sad flight home.
This time — in their sixth WCWS and third championship series appearance — the Gators left with the trophy.
“It’s very exciting, just to do this for Coach, and all the hard work he’s put into this all four years I’ve been here,” said Rogers, who was named the tourney’s Most Outstanding Player. “Being with my teammates and doing this with these girls is just a great feeling.”
On Monday night, after the 5-0 win in the opening game of the series, Walton informed Haeger she’d be starting Tuesday.
“I don’t know exactly the statistics, but anytime we’ve had a Hannah Rogers ‘W,’ and gone right back with her the next day, we’ve lost every time that I can remember with Hannah pitching,” Walton said. “We went into this three-game series knowing that, and we had Lauren to pitch today, no matter win or lose (Monday).
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