The stage is set for an all-SEC Women's College World Series national championship best-of-three series between the Florida Gators and Alabama Crimson Tide after Sunday's action.
Florida got a jaw-dropping performance from an elite hurler to advance past the Baylor Lady Bears, a team the Gators had already defeated once in the tournament. Alabama used two clutch runs and an equally impressive performance from an ace of its own to overcome the Oregon Ducks.
Both SEC powerhouses more than deserve their spots in the big series, which is sure to provide plenty of can't-miss action. Before a champion is crowned, here is a look at how the semifinals on Sunday played out:
|11||Florida 6, Baylor 3|
|12||Alabama 2, Oregon 0|
Day 4 Recap
Florida 6, Baylor 3
Hannah Rogers was the hero on Sunday for the Gators, as her complete game mostly silenced the Lady Bears bats, while the Florida offense provided the Gators' star pitcher with plenty of support.
Rogers gave up just five hits on the day, struck out two batters and issued one walk after seeing her offense give her a 5-0 lead through the top of the fifth inning. Her final out of the day, as expected, was met with plenty of fanfare, as captured by NCAA Softball:
As if the game was not impressive enough, Chris Harry of Gator Zone provided Rogers' jarring numbers:
Another spectacular game from Hannah Rogers. Complete game, 5-hitter. She's now 6-0 with just 3 runs allowed in 35 NCAA innings.— Chris Harry (@GatorZoneChris) June 1, 2014
Stephanie Tofft and Taylor Schwarz were the best players at the plate on Sunday for the Gators. The former plated two runs in three appearances, while the latter hit three RBI in four trips to the plate, making short work of Baylor starter Whitney Canion, who gave up eight hits and struck out five.
For Florida, three runs by the Lady Bears in the bottom of the fifth—including two RBI from Kaitlyn Thumann—was quite the scary proposition considering Baylor had rebounded from a 7-0 deficit to upend the Kentucky Wildcats on Saturday.
It simply was not meant to be, as the Gators started hot and never cooled.
Alabama 2, Oregon 0
For No. 1 Oregon, the chance to play for a shot at the title was a defining moment, as explained by head coach Mike White before the game:
Perhaps the Ducks were looking ahead to the Gators, because they had a miserable day overall at the plate and were blanked for all seven innings and managed just four hits on the day.
Two of the hits were bunt singles by leadoff hitter Courtney Ceo.
The star for the Crimson tide was Jaclyn Traina. Like Rogers earlier in the day, Traina went a full seven innings and struck out eight batters.
Poetically, it was Traina's final strikeout of the day that sent the Crimson Tide to the title game despite the Ducks having two runners on base:
That's it! Bama heads to the championship series to face Florida after besting Oregon 2-0. https://t.co/8Uu9sMWAAn— NCAA Softball (@NCAAsoftball) June 1, 2014
It was a rather predictable performance from the WCWS Most Outstanding Player when the Crimson Tide won the title two seasons ago.
Haylie McCleney provided the first run of the day in the fifth inning via a home run off Cheridan Hawkins. Molly Fichtner knocked in an RBI later in the same inning for insurance that would send the team to the title series.
Women's College World Series National Championship Preview
The Gators and Crimson Tide will kick off their sure-to-be epic showdown on Monday at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN2.
Which team wins the title?
Alabama held a 2-1 regular-season advantage in head-to-head matchups against Florida, with the only loss being a 7-1 defeat. The Crimson Tide rebounded the day after with a 7-0 victory to claim the three-game series.
The two sides are no strangers to high-scoring affairs, but one can bet the series will be one for fans who love strong pitching and overall defense. Both teams have surefire aces to send out for a minimum of one contest, meaning runs will be hard to come by.
Regardless, the SEC will be winning softball national title No. 2 when all is said and done. It's readily apparent the winning team will be the one that features a better pitching performance.
Note: All info courtesy of NCAA.com unless otherwise specified.