Florida knocks out California
Gators play small ball to capture victory, keep season alive
OKLAHOMA CITY -- Florida showed they don’t have to hit home runs to generate offense at the Women’s College World Series.
Cheyenne Coyle, Aja Paculba, Tiffany DeFelice and Michelle Moultrie all had RBI singles as the nation’s top home run-hitting team moved into the semifinals by beating California 5-2 on Saturday night.
The Gators (54-11) had homered twice in each of their first two World Series games to push their NCAA-best total to 114 this season. This time they got timely base hits and capitalized on a series of fielding mistakes by Cal shortstop Britt Vonk.
“That’s the difference in this game compared to the game that I started building this program on, with more power than power and speed,” said Tim Walton, Florida’s sixth-year head coach. “We’re making the transition from power to power and speed and being a little bit more of a triple threat type team.”
Florida will face Southeastern Conference rival Alabama on Sunday, needing to beat the second-seeded Tide twice to reach the best-of-three finals.
“Bama is always an amazing game,” Kelsey Bruder said. “It’s been back and forth throughout the years. Kelsi Dunne has gotten us as many times as we’ve gotten her.”
Vonk’s errant flip to third on Coyle’s third-inning infield single allowed the Gators to tie the game 2-2, and Paculba followed with a clean single to put Florida ahead to stay. The Gators tacked on runs in the fourth and fifth on two more infield singles hit to Vonk.
Moultrie came all the way around from second to score when Vonk booted DeFelice’s single up the middle. Moultrie then legged out a two-out RBI single in the fifth when Vonk looked to second for a force out, then threw to first a moment too late to beat Moultrie.
The Bears (45-13) survived an elimination game earlier in the day, but got knocked out after failing to protect the 2-0 first-inning lead they built against freshman Hannah Rogers. Jace Williams had an RBI double to right, then scored on Lindsey Ziegenhirt’s single to center.
Rogers (35-7) avoided falling too far behind by striking out Victoria Jones and getting Jordan Wallace to ground out with the bases loaded to end the first. That kept the game within striking distance for the Gators, who rank second in the nation with 7.4 runs per game and have scored at least five in all three of their World Series games.
“We know Florida has a very explosive offense and we were going to need a lot of runs,” Williams said. “A fantastic team, Florida. Not much of a weakness anywhere.”
Their big rally started after Jolene Henderson (40-10) had retired the first two batters in the third. Bruder and Brittany Schutte had back-to-back singles before Henderson walked Megan Bush to load the bases.
Coyle, who had already hit into an inning-ending force-out with the bases loaded in the first, hit another grounder in the same direction but this time it resulted in two runs. Vonk’s flip to third was wide of the base, allowing Bruder and Schutte to score and tie the game.
“It was really the same pitch and almost the same exact result,” Walton said. “She got a little bit of the top of the ball in both cases, and both cases were a tough play for shortstop. … Obviously it was a huge momentum shift.”