Special to GC
OKLAHOMA CITY – Behind a dominant performance form senior Lauren Haeger at the plate and a gutsy effort from Aleshia Ocasio and Delanie Gourley in the circle, the University of Florida softball team won Game 1 of the Women’s College World Series Championship Series over Michigan, 3-2, on Monday in front of 8,329 people at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium.
With tonight’s win, UF (59-6) has extended its postseason win streak to 15 games, which is tied for the longest in NCAA history. In addition, Florida improved to 3-0 this season against the Michigan Wolverines (59-7).
The 2015 National Player of the Year, Haeger, launched her 71st-career home run midway up the bleachers in the left field in the bottom of the first inning, which set the tone for the entire game. The long ball was a two-run shot, as junior Kelsey Stewart led off the first with an infield single.
In the bottom of the third, freshman Nicole DeWitt notched a one-out single to center and then scored on a Haeger double, which proved to be the difference in the game.
Despite the early momentum swing, Michigan would not go away.
In the sixth, UM kicked off the inning with a Kelsey Susalla single up the middle, followed by Lauren Sweet getting hit-by-a-pitch. After a pair of Wolverine fly outs, Michigan’s Tera Blanco walked to load the bases, setting up the table for a two-run single for shortstop Abby Ramirez to cut the UF lead to 3-2.
Michigan was threatening once again in the seventh as it had runners at the corners with no-one out, but the Wolverines were unable to score.
In the circle for UF, head coach Tim Walton chose to start freshman Aleshia Ocasio (18-3), who in her second-career start tossed six innings and struck out three batters. Coach Tim Walton then called on sophomore Delanie Gourley toclose the deal and earn her fifth save of the season.
The Gators will look to lock up there second-straight NCAA Championship tomorrow night in Game 2 of the WCWS Championship Series at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN.
STARS OF THE GAME
- Lauren Haeger: The senior blasted her 71st-career home run and recorded all three of Florida’s RBI tonight.
- Delanie Gourley: The left-hander got off to a rocky start in the seventh inning, but earned her fifth save of the season.
- Aleshia Ocasio: The freshman recorded her 18th-career win as she tossed six innings of two-run softball while striking out three Wolverines.
- Florida is now 21-11 all-time at the WCWS.
- The Gators are now 68-32 all-time in the NCAA Tournament.
- During Tim Walton’s tenure as head coach, UF is 63-20 in NCAA play and 21-11 at the WCWS.
- The Gators are now 27-2 since April 1; the stretch includes 18 victories over ranked teams and 11 nonconference wins.
- UF hasn’t trailed an NCAA tournament game after a completed inning since last year’s Super Regional (14 games in a row).
- With her first inning homer, Lauren Haeger now has 72 career wins and 71 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.
- Her RBI double in the third marked the 70th RBI of the season for the Peoria, Ariz. native which ties a career-high (2013).
- Kelsey Stewart extended her current hitting streak to nine games in the top of first inning with an infield single. She now has a 20-game NCAA Tournament hit streak dating back to last year.
- In 66 innings during this NCAA Tournament, the Gators have thrown 63 scoreless frames; Haeger has recorded 50 of those shutout innings.
- Aleshia Ocasio was in the circle for the first player in the Super Regional era to start Game 1 of championship series without pitching previously in super regional or World Series.