Florida defeats Alabama 5-0 In Opener Of Championship SeriesWritten By Bill Plummer
OKLAHOMA CITY — Sometimes you get a key hit from a player you might not expect. Say Aubree Munro of the Florida Gators in the opening game of the NCAA Championship Series Monday evening before a crowd of 7,608 on Strikeout Cancer Night.
Munro bats eighth in the Florida lineup and entered Monday's game with a .274 batting average with only two homers of her career. The two homers were hit February 14th in a doubleheader, but her third homer came Monday night off Alabama ace Jaclyn Traina on a 1-0 count leading off the top of the third and gave the Gators an early 1-0 lead in a 5-0 win. Munro's homer landed in the left field bleachers up about seven or eight rows.
After her homer, Florida scored twice each in the fifth and seventh innings and collected eight hits off Traina who was replaced by Leslie Jury after allowing a run-scoring double by Lauren Haeger in the seventh inning. The other run in the inning came home on a sacrifice fly to left by Stephanie Tofft. Tofft also drove in one of the two runs in the fifth inning with an RBI single to left with Kirsti Merritt hitting a double to right center to score Kelsey Stewart with the first run. Stewart singled with two out to start the Gators and scored on Merritt's double.
While Traina allowed eight hits, Hannah Rogers was near perfect, allowing four hits to improve to 7-0 (42 innings, 3 earned runs) in this year's NCAA Tournament, including six shutouts. Alabama (53-12) went hitless until the fifth inning and was shut out for just the third time this season, the first since back-to-back shutout losses at Arizona in early February. Traina (26-4) took the loss in the circle, throwing 6.1 innings with five runs, four earned, off eight hits while Jury got the final two outs in the top of the seventh in relief.
Rogers carried the same mentality into Monday's start against her longtime rival as her previous outings.
“We worked hard all season to get here,” Rogers told ESPN immediately after the game. “Just keep locating my pitching and stay low in the zone and using my defense.”
Rogers did that and more in outdueling Traina, Alabama's ace who was chased from the game in the top of the seventh. She struck out three and walked none, facing just two batters over the minimum for her 30th win of the season.
Alabama broke up Rogers' perfect game in the bottom of the fifth on a single to center by Kaila Hunt, but Rogers quickly worked out of any trouble with the help of a 5-4-3 double play to end the inning. The Gators turned another double play — their fifth of the tournament — to help offset three Alabama hits in the bottom of the seventh.
For the fourth game in a row, Florida played errorless ball with Alabama having only two baserunners.
Alabama (53-12) went hitless until the fifth inning and was shut out for just the third time this season, the first since back-to-back shutout losses at Arizona in early February. Traina (26-4) took the loss in the circle, throwing 6.1 innings with five runs, four earned, off eight hits while Jury got the final two outs in the top of the seventh in relief.
Florida, making its third appearance in the WCWS Championship Series, was 0-4 and had been outscored 32-8 in their previous two trips.
Two years ago, Alabama lost its first game of the Championship Series against Oklahoma and then won the next two games. The Crimson Tide will hope to bounce back in Tuesday's second game (7 CT) to force an if necessary game Wednesday.
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