The Florida Gators are officially NCAA champions after winning the Women's College World Series in two games against the Alabama Crimson Tide, and there were a few players that were big contributors during the team's title run.
After beating Alabama 5-0 in Game 1, the Gators sealed their first ever national title with a 6-3 win on Tuesday night. The game featured plenty of big hits, but it was solid pitching that helped them throughout the season and eventually helped lead them to the biggest win in program history.
Now that the season is over, let's take a look at a few of the players that were key to the Gators going all the way in this year's tournament.
When it comes to college softball pitchers, Hannah Rogers has officially solidified herself as one of the greatest of all time. She was dominant throughout the tournament, heading into Tuesday's game with a 7-0 postseason record and just a 0.50 ERA. In Game 1, she pitched a complete game shutout, allowing just four hits.
The big surprise heading into Game 2 was that Rogers didn't get the start. Instead, coach Tim Walton went with his gut and decided to start Lauren Haeger. Rogers finally went in to start the sixth inning, allowing just one run in the final two innings and eventually closing out the game.
Rogers had this to say after the game, according to GatorZone.com:
I was just trusting whatever [Walton] wanted to do. I knew they would get the job done because they have worked hard all season long. We just stayed together. I'm just so proud of all the girls. I was just so excited [on the final out]. It didn't really hit me [we won] until we finally made the play.
With 126 career wins, Rogers will leave Florida with the third-most wins in SEC history, but she'll always be remembered for helping lead the Gators to a national title.
As one of the team's top sluggers this season, the Gators needed Kirsti Merritt to come up with a big hit on Tuesday night, and she was able to do exactly that.
It was a tremendous season for the freshman outfielder, hitting .299 with 13 home runs and 52 RBI along with 57 runs scored. While she had the second-most home runs on the team, none were bigger than the one on Tuesday. With the Gators up 2-1 in the second inning, Merritt crushed a three-run homer to put Florida up 5-1 and essentially seal their final win of the season.
Along with a big home run, Merritt also made the catch in the Vine below in the final inning, capping off an overall great day.
With a number of great seniors leaving after this season, the future still seems bright in Florida thanks to Merritt and another freshman that had a terrific season.
The other big-time freshman for the Gators this season was Kelsey Stewart, and it's not hard to see why. In 67 games played, she led the team with a .438 batting average and 36 stolen bases while also putting up solid numbers with seven home runs and 57 RBI.
After a 2-for-3 game with two runs scored on Monday, Stewart came back and got a go-ahead RBI single in the second inning of Tuesday's game. That wasn't the biggest play of the night for the All-American freshman, however, as she made a crucial play in the fourth inning. With the bases loaded with two outs, Stewart recovered after bobbling a ball, throwing to first just in time to end the inning.
Considering how dominant she was as just a freshman, Gators fans will be excited to see what Stewart can do in three more years at Florida. If she and Merritt continue to improve, the Gators will continue to be a title contender for the next few seasons.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!