Special to GC
OKLAHOMA CITY — The Gators did something Monday night they had never done: win a game in the WCWS Championship Series.
If they can win one more, they will claim their first national championship.
The Gators (54-12) got it done in their 5-0 Game 1 victory over SEC-rival Alabama the way they have all postseason: solid defense, timely hitting and the right arm of starter Hannah Rogers.
Rogers tossed a four-hit shutout to improve to 7-0 with a 0.50 ERA (42 IP, 3 ER) in this year’s NCAA Tournament, including six shutouts.
She carried the same mentality into Monday’s start against longtime rival Jaclyn Traina as her previous outings.
“We worked hard all season to get here,” Rogers told ESPN immediately after the game. “Just keep locating my pitches and stay low in the zone and using my defense.”
Rogers did that and more in outdueling Traina, Alabama’s ace who was chased from the game in the top of the seventh. Traina lost for only the fourth time (26-4) all season, allowing eight hits, five runs in 6 1/3 innings. She struck out six and walked three.
However, Rogers was the dominant pitcher Monday. She struck out three and walked none, facing just two batters over the minimum for her 30th win of the season.
Florida catcher Aubree Munro provided all the offense the Gators would need with a solo home run into the left-field bleachers at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium in the third inning.
The Gators provided Rogers some wiggle room in the fifth with a two-out rally that started with a bunt single byKelsey Stewart. Kirsti Merritt drove Stewart home with a double and Merritt scored on an RBI single fromStephanie Tofft.
Alabama (53-12) broke up Rogers’ perfect game in the bottom of the fifth on a single to center by Kaila Hunt.
The hit did not faze Rogers, whose crisp location kept the Crimson Tide off balance throughout the game. Rogers quickly worked out of any trouble with the help of a 5-4-3 double play to end the inning. The Gators turned another double play — their fifth of the tournament — to help offset three Alabama hits in the bottom of the seventh.
The Gators added a pair of insurance runs in the seventh on an RBI sacrifice fly by Tofft and an RBI double byLauren Haeger.
Florida, making its third appearance in the WCWS Championship Series, was 0-4 and had been outscored 32-8 in its previous two trips.
Game 2 is scheduled Tuesday night at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN.