OKLAHOMA CITY -- Almost an hour after the Florida Gators collected the last out in the 2015 Women's College World Series, they were back on the pitchers mound as ASA Hall of Fame Stadium.
Every member of the team newly minted back-to-back national champions took turns taking pictures with each other and their championship trophy Wednesday.Even though just a year earlier the Gators had earned the program's first title, they treated their 4-1 title clinching victory against Michigan as if they had never experienced it before.
“It was a little bit more emotional than the first,” Florida coach Tim Walton said. “It was kind of an interesting thing. I don't know if it was a relief. Last year it was just a lot of celebration. This time it was a bit different emotion. I'm really proud of them.”
While the Gators (60-7) flew around the field hugging each other their opponents had already began to fade into the background.
Team 38, as the Wolverines (60-8) called themselves, fought and scrapped their way to the championship series but were unable to get past Lauren Haeger, who showed why she's the National Player of the Year.
“Congrats to Florida,” Michigan coach Carol Hutchins said. “They were the best team tonight. They've been one often this season, but they showed up to come after us. That first inning obviously broke our bat. But really, when it comes down to it you have to say Lauren Haeger. She is very deserving of the Most Outstanding Player.”
Trailing 4-0 the Wolverines best chance to make it a game came in the top of the third inning. Despite not getting a hit, Michigan loaded the bases against Haeger. Kelly Christner came to bat with two outs.
It was the perfect situation for the sophomore who is second on the team in homers and and a .400 batting average.
But Haeger reared back and struck Christner out to end the threat and really put the night to bed.
“You always want to win your last game,” Tera Blanco said. “This team meant so much to me. I felt like Team 38 has been so special and I feel Team 39 is going to be great. Our seniors were just amazing this year, and they helped us through everything basically.”
During the WCWS Haeger allowed six runs in 36 innings of work on the mound. She was just as ferocious at the plate knocking the ball out of the park. She ends her college career with a shelf full of individual honors, but its the team title that she will cherish the most.
“It's honestly the best thing that has every happened to me right now,” Haeger said. “I'm just so proud of them. My teammates are awesome.”
Haylie Wagner joined fellow Wolverines Abby Ramirez, Kelsey Susalla, Sierra Romero and Kelly Christner on the All-Tournament team.
The Gators added Haeger, Kelsey Stewart, Aubree Munro and Nicole DeWitt.
Auburn's Carlee Wallace and Brandi Melero and UCLA's Ally Carda rounded out the squad.
Wagner watched her career concluded in the loss to the Gators. While she would rather have seen end hoisting up the championship trophy, her time at UM meant more than any hardware.
“My most proud moment right now,” Wagner said. “I wanted to wear my jersey, Michigan across my chest to the very last possible game. And I got to do that. I couldn't be more proud of the team and being part of such an amazing experience and opportunity. And this may be the last day I get to wear the jersey across my chest, but I'll forever be a Michigan Wolverine.