Florida Wins Second Straight Softball Championship
The Florida Gators won their second straight softball National Championship thanks to Lauren Haeger‘s dominant pitching performance. She had a no-hitter going into the fifth inning to lead the Gators to a 4-1 victory.
After struggling against Haylie Wagner on Tuesday, the Gators jumped on her right away in the bottom of the first. Kelsey Stewart was hit by a pitch and was sacrificed to second on a bunt that also allowed Nicole DeWitt to reach safely. Haeger singled her home to put runners on the corners while Kirsti Merritt put both runners in scoring position with a sacrifice bunt. Taylor Schwarz brought those two runners home for a 3-0 Florida lead after one inning.
Florida drove Wagner out of the game early in the bottom of the second. Justine McLean was able to get to second base after a throwing error and then moved up to third on a sacrifice bunt. Stewart brought her home with a double to left field and Wagner was then taken out in favor of Megan Betsa with Florida leading 4-0.
Betsa struggled with her control as she hit the next two batters to load the bases with only one out. However, she soon found her control by striking out the next two batters to end the bases loaded jam.
Michigan had two bases runners in the top of the third thanks to back-to-back hitters being hit by a pitch. A strike out and foul out did not help the cause while Sierra Romero drew a walk to load the bases. Haeger ended the top of the third with a strike out of Kelly Christner.
Florida had another chance to put up runs in the bottom of the fourth. Kelsey Stewart hit into a fielder’s choice that threw out the lead runner at second, but she was able to steal second with only out. A strike out was followed by an intentional walk of Haeger before a foul out ended the inning for the Gators. After four innings, Florida still led 4-0.
Michigan would finally get their first hit in the top of the fifth. Tera Blanco hit a one out single to left field and Abby Ramirez reached on an infield single. Sierra Lawrence flied out to right field before Romero delivered an RBI single to center that scored Blanco. Christner flied out to center field to end the threat and Michigan trailing 4-1.
The Gators saw Merritt hit by a pitch to start the bottom of the fifth and she stole second on a strike out. Two batters later, McLean hit a single to first and stole second to put both runners in scoring position. Once again, Wagner was able to shut the door with a strike out.
Michigan tried to start a two out rally in the sixth. Amanda Vargas singled to center and Wagner was hit by a pitch to put two runners on. Unfortunately for Michigan, Blanco grounded out to short to end the inning.
Florida began the bottom half of the sixth with Stewart being hit by a pitch and stealing second on a DeWitt strike out. After another intentional walk to Haeger, Taylore Fuller was hit by a pitch to load the bases while Haylie Wagner came back into the circle for Michigan. She was able to prevent any runs from getting across thanks to a foul out to the catcher and ground out to second. Michigan still trailed 4-1 after six innings with one final chance.
Michigan’s final half inning began with a single by Abby Ramirez. Sierra Lawrence struck out looking while Sierra Romero hit a ground ball to the shortstop that threw Ramirez out at second. Christner came up and hit a ground ball to first base for an easy put out that gave Florida their second straight National Championship.
Lauren Haeger pitched another good game going seven innings while giving up one run on five hits. She also allowed one walk and struck out five Wolverines. For her incredible performances throughout the last week, Haeger was named the Women’s College World Series Most Outstanding Player.
Florida became the first team since the Arizona Wildcats in 2006 and 2007 to win back-to-back National Championships in Division 1 Softball. Arizona also won back-to-back titles in 1993-94 and 1996-97. The only other program to do so has been the UCLA Bruins who have done it three times in 1984-85, 1988-90, and 2003-04.