The Florida Gators have steamrolled opponents to move to within one win of playing for the NCAA national softball title.
Florida senior right-hander Hannah Rogers tossed a three-hit shutout to lead the Gators to a 4-0 win over No. 1-ranked Oregon on Friday night in a Women’s College World Series winners’ bracket game at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium.
“We executed our game plan and we’ve been playing great defense,” said coach Tim Walton. “That all sounds great but Hannah pitched a great game, which is why we’re where we’re at.”
Florida has outscored opponents 64-4 in the NCAA tournament. The Gators lost 4-3 to Washington in the second game of their super regional but have posted shutouts in their remaining seven games.
“This team has set a lofty goal (to win a national championship),” Walton said. “I give them a ton of credit for buying in and being accountable. All 17 girls are doing their part.”
The Gators (52-12) need only one win to reach the best-of-three final that starts Monday night. The Gators are off Saturday, waiting to see whether Florida State, Baylor or Kentucky will have to beat them twice on Sunday.
“It’s a great spot to be in, no doubt,” Walton said. “We came through it undefeated to reach the championship and we came through the losers’ bracket… It will be tough no matter who we play. The great part is somebody has to beat us twice. I like our chances the way we’re playing.”
The Gators reached the WCWS finals during Rogers’ freshman year, swept by Arizona State in the finals. Florida also reached the finals in 2009, swept by Washington. But this time Rogers is on a roll, having thrown 33 consecutive shutout innings.
“I’m just locating pitches, and the way I feel right now my body feels great,” Rogers said. “Our defense has played great behind me and the hitters are hitting great. We just need to carry that over to our next game.”
The Gators were led by right fielder Bailey Castro, who was 3-for-3, drove in two runs and scored two runs. Castro’s mammoth 260-foot home run over the left-center field bleachers gave Florida a 1-0 lead.
“It was a change-up,” Castro said. “The pitch was up and I kept my barrel out on it.”
Florida scored three runs in the third to give Rogers’ ample insurance. Castro’s RBI single drove in the first run. The other two runs scored when Oregon second baseman Karine Shaver tripped and fell on a routine popup that landed in her lap.