Special to GC
The University of Florida softball team defeated Baylor, 11-0 (5 innings), on Thursday in the first game of the Women’s College World Series. Florida sealed the mercy-rule victory on a walk-off grand slam by pinch-hitter Chelsea Herndon, who went yard against former Hebron High School (Texas) teammate Heather Stearns.
Hannah Rogers retired the Bears in order in the top of the first with a foulout and two groundouts. Florida (51-12) took a 3-0 lead in the home half, beginning when Kirsti Merritt blooped a one-out single to left-center, then advanced two bases on a Baylor error as Lauren Haeger reached on a fielder’s choice. Stephanie Tofft drove in Merritt for the game’s first run on a sacrifice fly, and the Gators’ early rally continued when Briana Little walked to set up a two-run double by Bailey Castro.
Both teams went down 1-2-3 in the second. Baylor (47-15) got a leadoff single in the third for its first hit of the game, but Rogers (27-8) stranded the runner at first on a foulout and two strikeouts. Merritt led off the bottom of the frame with a home run to straightaway center, pushing the UF lead to four.
The Bears had a pair of infield singles in the fourth, but Florida’s senior hurler worked around the hits to keep them off the scoreboard. Aubree Munro hit a one-out double to left-center for the Gators, advancing to third on a wild pitch before scoring on Kelsey Stewart’s single through the left side to make the score 5-0 in favor of the Orange and Blue.
Baylor was retired in order to begin the sixth, and Florida scored six runs in the bottom of the inning to ice the win. Haeger singled to lead off before being lifted for pinch-runner Jessica Damico. Tofft followed with a double down the right-field line, and Little beat out an infield single to load the bases. Justine McLean then reached on a fielder’s choice that scored Damico, and Taylor Schwarz was hit by a pitch to force in a run and make the score 7-0. Florida needed just one run to put away the Bears, but Herndon gave them four with her first career grand slam, putting the Gators in the winners’ bracket after one day at the WCWS.