Special to GC
OKLAHOMA CITY – Freshman Nicole DeWitt sent the University of Florida softball team to the Women’s College World Series Championship Series with a single to left field which scored sophomore Justine McLean in the bottom of the ninth inning, to give the Gators a thrilling extra-inning victory over Auburn, 3-2, on Sunday at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium.
The Orange and Blue (58-6) have now advanced to the WCWS Championship Series four times (2009, 2011, 2014, 2015), winning the program’s first NCAA title and Florida’s 33rd overall national championship in 2014.
UF struck first when McLean scored on a passed ball in the bottom of the third inning. The sophomore made her way to third by way of a one-out single, advancing to second on a passed ball and third because of back-to-back walks to Kelsey Stewart and Lauren Haeger.
After stranding seven runners over the first three innings, Auburn (56-11) finally scored in the fourth when they plated two runs on four hits. Auburn’s lead marked the first time this postseason that the Gators had trailed in a game.
Undaunted, Florida answered right back as junior Taylore Fuller led off the bottom of the fourth inning with a her 14th home run of the season and her first-career at the WCWS to knot the game at 2-2.
The remainder of the contest was contentious and featured multiple scoring opportunities for each team, but no one could finish it off until DeWitt in the ninth.
In the circle, Haeger (31-1) battled and threw all nine frames for the Gators. Despite not recording a 1-2-3 inning all day and allowing 11 Auburn hits, the Peoria, Ariz. product struck out six Tigers and only allowed two runs. Florida will face either Michigan Spartans or LSU Tigers tomorrow night at 8 p.m. ET. on ESPN2 for Game 1 of the NCAA WCWS Championship Series.
STARS OF THE GAME
- Lauren Haeger: The right-hander struck-out six Auburn Tigers as she tossed all nine innings and notched her 31st win of the season.
- Nicole DeWitt: The freshman drove in the game-winning run in the bottom of the ninth inning with a single to left.
- Justine McLean: The sophomore scored the game’s winning run in the ninth inning after reaching base on a fielder’s choice earlier in the inning.
Florida will make its fourth championship series appearance since 2009, marking the most in the country during that span.
School # of WCWS Champ. Series Appearances (Years)
Florida 4 (2009, 2011, 2014*, 2015)
Alabama 2 (2012*, 2014)
Oklahoma 2 (2012, 2013*)
Arizona 1 (2010)
Arizona State 1 (2011*)
Tennessee 1 (2013)
UCLA 1 (2010*)
Washington 1 (2009*)
* — Denotes NCAA Champion
- Florida is now 20-11 all-time at the WCWS.
- The Gators are now 67-32 all-time in the NCAA Tournament.
- During Tim Walton’s tenure as head coach, UF is 62-20 in NCAA play and 20-11 at the WCWS.
- Today’s victory was Coach Walton’s 550th-career win.
- The Gators are now 26-2 since April 1; the stretch includes 17 victories over ranked teams and 10 nonconference wins.
- Lauren Haeger now has 72 career wins and 70 career home runs; she is the only player in Division I history to post 60+ in each category, and now has 70.
- Haeger and Babe Ruth are the only players in Division I softball, baseball or Major League Baseball history to reach the 70-70 plateau.
- The Gators are now 3-1 in extra-inning games this season.
- Today marked the longest game UF has played in since it faced Nebraska in a 15-innning win at the 2013 WCWS.
- Kelsey Stewart extended her current hitting streak to eight games in the top of first inning with a double to left-center field. She now has a 19-game NCAA Tournament hit streak dating back to last year.
- Taylore Fuller launched her 14th homer of the season and her first-career at the WCWS.
- Her long ball meant Florida hasn’t trailed an NCAA tournament game after a completed inning since last year’s Super Regional (14 games in a row).
- In 59 innings during this NCAA Tournament, the Gators have thrown 57 scoreless frames; Lauren Haeger has recorded 50 of those shutout innings.