Florida Takes NCAA Softball Championship Series Game 1
Lauren Haeger was the reason for Florida’s 3-2 win over Michigan and she did not even see the pitching circle. She accounted for all three runs batted in including a two run bomb to left field to put the Gators on the brink of their second straight National Championship.
Michigan’s Kelly Christner hit a two out single to center field, but Aleshia Ocasio was able to strike out the next batter to leave her stranded.
The Gators quickly got on base following an error by Michigan’s Abby Ramirez that allowed Kelsey Stewart to reach second base. After a ground out, Haeger came up and hit a bomb to left field to put the Gators up 2-0. A two out walk by Kayli Kvistad put her on first, but another strike out ended the inning with Florida leading 2-0.
Michigan got another two out hit in the top of the second, this time from Haylie Wagner and a walk drawn by Tera Blanco put two runners on base. Ramirez struck out swinging to end the inning and Michigan still down 2-0.
The Gators added to their lead in the bottom of the third. A one out single by Nicole DeWitt was followed by a crushing double to the right center field gap by Haeger that scored DeWitt. Kirsti Merritt was hit by the next pitch to put runners on first and second with only one out. After a ground out and walk loaded the bases, Megan Betsa was relieved by Haylie Wagner in the circle. She got the job done by forcing a foul out to end the inning and Michigan trailing 3-0 after three innings.
Ocasio was able to pitch around a one out walk to Lindsay Montemarano in the top of the fourth. Meanwhile, Florida got a lead off base runner after an error at shortstop by Ramirez. Despite that, Wagner was able to set the next three down in order to keep it a three run game.
In the top of the sixth, Michigan had a great opportunity to put their first run on the board. Kelsey Susalla singled to center and Lauren Sweet was hit by a pitch while also being pinch ran for by Nikki Wald. A fly out to right field put runners on the corners. Wagner hit a shot to left field, but just missed staying fair and she popped out to second to end the at-bat.
A walk by Blanco loaded the bases to bring up Ramirez with the bases loaded. Ramirez hit a slapper up the middle to drive home Wald and Susalla to make it a 3-2 game. Sierra Lawrence hit a hard shot to left field, but it was caught to end the inning after the top of the sixth.
The first pitch of the bottom half of the sixth hit Bailey Castro and she was pinch ran for by Justine McLean. A fly out and sacrifice moved McLean up to second, but a short pop out to the pitcher put Michigan down to their final three outs in the seventh.
Delanie Gourley stepped into the circle to start the seventh in place of Ocasio for the Gators. She gave up a lead off walk to Sierra Romero and she moved up to second on a passed ball to put her in scoring position. A single by Christner put runners on the corners before a nice stab at short by Katie Medina put the runner out at second to leave runners on the corners with one out. Interestingly, Romero stayed put at third when she may have been able to score on the throw to first.
Gourley then used a nice curveball to strike out Sweet for the second out. Gourley then induced a ground ball from Montemarano to end the game.
Lauren Haeger was the star going 2 for 3 with all three runs batted in and one run. Aleshia Ocasio pitched six innings giving up two runs, five hits, and four walks while striking out three batters.
Michigan’s Haylie Wagner pitched a perfect three and one third innings with one strikeout.
Game two will be on Tuesday night at 8 PM Eastern Time on ESPN. Michigan needs to win to force the decisive game three on Wednesday night.