Haeger Propels Gators to 3-2 Win Over Michigan in First Game of Championship Series

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“Haeger Propels Gators to 3-2 Win Over Michigan in First Game of Championship Series” Written By Bill Plummer

OKLAHOMA CITY — Lauren Haeger made her presence felt in the first game of the NCAA Championship Series Monday night against Michigan.

But she wasn't in the position Michigan had figured she would be in during the game which drew a crowd of 8,329.

Instead of being in the circle for the Gators, Haeger was the DP and responded by driving in all of the runs in a 3-2 win over the Wolverines, ending their 28-game consecutive win streak and hand Michigan its first loss in the WCWS. The loss was the first for Michigan since April 3 at Minnesota.

Haeger, who is expected to pitch in Tuesday might's second of a possible three games, got the scoring started in the bottom of the first inning with a two-run homer to left field, her third of the WCWS and 19th of the season. The 2015 USA Softball Player of the Year added an RBI double in the third inning to give Florida a 3-0 lead.

Michigan cut the lead to a one-run deficit in the sixth inning on a two-run, two-out single up the middle by sophomore Abby Ramirez and threatened in the seventh inning, having runners on the corners before the Gators turned a double play to end the threat and the game. It was Michigan's seventh loss of the season and the third time it has lost to Michigan this season.

In the two earlier wins, Florida freshman Aleshia Ocasio (18-3) did the pitching and she again did the hurling Monday, limiting the opposition to five hits in six innings. She fanned batters and walked three. Ocasio became the first pitcher in the Super Regionals era to start Game 1 of the Championship Series without pitching previously in the Super Regional or World Series. Sophomore Delanie Gourley hurled the last inning and earned her fifth save of the season.

Ocasio's performance impressed Michigan head coach Carol Hutchins.”Great game by Florida. “You know, Alesia Ocasio I thought was brilliant tonight. I think Lauren speaks for herself. And honestly I felt that we didn't really come out to play to win until about the fifth inning. Our energy, we seemed a little tentative. Things really didn't go our way.”

Megan Betsa was the losing pitcher and allowed four hits and three runs in 2 2/3 innings with Haylie Wagner finishing the game. Betsa fanned three batters and walked two in suffering in first loss in the WCWS this year and her fifth loss against 31 wins overall.

Betsa for the third straight game appeared to have confidence problems. ” Well, she appears to have some confidence problems, I would say,” said Hutchins.”And we need our best confidence on the mound, I can tell you that. It's a long tournament, hopefully. We're here to get her confidence back. There's no reason not to have confidence at this point in the season. But it's been a tough week so far.”

Florida (59-6) is now 21-11 in its seventh appearance in the WCWS and tonight is one win away from back-to-back championships. Last team to win back-to-back national titles was Arizona (2006-07). Michigan fall to 12-21 in its the WCWS appearance and is seeking its second national title. It won its first in 2005.

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Bill Plummer Bill Plummer A graduate of Indiana University, Ind. Bill has been involved in softball for more than four decades. For 30years he was a fixture at the ASA National Office as a communications coordinator, manager of the ASA National Softball Hall of Fame and historian. In addition, he also served as the editor of the ASA official newsletter, The Inside Pitch, and as the Trade Show Manager. He has written widely about the sport and has contributed to 14 books. In 2009, he authored “The Game America Plays.” In 2012, he co-authored “Best of the Best-Women’s Fastpitch.” In 2014, ” A Series of Their Own. The History of the Women's College World Series.” He has been elected to five halls of fame, including the ASA National. In 1996, he served as the Information Manager for the debut of softball in the Olympics.

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