Florida defeats Baylor to advance to WCWS championship series
Florida secured a spot in the finals of the Women’s College World Series with a 6-3 victory against Baylor on Sunday. The Gators had four extra-base hits on the day, while right-hander Hannah Rogers limited the Lady Bears to just one. Rogers allowed five hits and three earned runs, with one walk and two strikeouts on the way to her sixth complete game of this NCAA Tournament.
The Gators will appear in the WCWS finals for the third time in six years and this is the second time in six WCWS appearances that Florida has won its first three games in Oklahoma City.
Kirsti Merritt drew a one-out walk and then stole second in the top of the first, but she was stranded. Baylor had a one-out single off Rogers in the bottom of the frame, but the Gators’ hurler stranded the runner at second. Florida had three base runners in the second when Bailey Castro walked, Briana Little doubled to left and Taylor Schwarz reached on a fielder’s choice; the Orange and Blue could not produce a run as Castro was thrown out in a rundown and Aubree Munro and Kathlyn Medina made outs on the infield.
Baylor had a lead-off single in the home half of the second, but Stephanie Tofft came in to catch a popout on a bunt before Medina started a 6-3 double play to end the inning. After Merritt earned another one-out free pass in the top of the third, Tofft got the Gators on the scoreboard with an RBI double that plated the outfielder. The Lady Bears went down 1-2-3 in the bottom of the frame, including a lineout to third base that Tofft snared on a diving catch.
Little led off the fourth with a triple to center and came home two batters later on Munro’s squeeze to push the lead to 2-0. Rogers set Baylor down 1-2-3 in the home half.
Tofft started a two-out rally in the fifth with an infield single before Castro and Little were hit by pitches to load the bases. Schwarz then extended the Gators' lead to five with a bases-clearing double to right-center before she was thrown out at third to end the inning.
The Lady Bears mounted a rally in the bottom of the fifth, scoring three times with a one-out RBI double to left and a two-run single down the right-field line with two outs. It snapped Florida’s scoreless streak at 22.2 innings, dating back to Game 2 of the Super Regional. It was also the first run allowed by Rogers during this postseason; she had thrown 37.0 consecutive scoreless innings dating back to the final regular-season game on May 4 at Arkansas.
Florida (53-12) loaded the bases in the top of the sixth on one-out singles by pinch-hitter Taylore Fuller and Kelsey Stewart and a hit-by-pitch from Merritt before Tofft was plunked to extend the Gator lead to 6-3.
Rogers retired Baylor (49-16) in order in the home half of the sixth. Schwarz reached on a throwing error in the top of the seventh, but she was stranded before Rogers (29-8) and the Gators set down the Lady Bears 1-2-3 to close out the 6-3 win and book Florida’s third trip to the WCWS Championship Series.