With a 4-1 victory Wednesday night at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium, top-seeded Florida clinched the Women’s College World Series title, taking the best-of-three championship series 2-1 over third-seeded Michigan.
Here are five moments that defined the championship series of the WCWS:
1. Gator repeat
In the days of the Pac-12 Conference’s WCWS dominance, repeat champions were the norm. UCLA and Arizona each repeated three times, with Arizona last accomplishing it in 2006-07. However, softball supremacy is swinging toward the Southeastern Conference in recent years, and Florida has a stronghold. The Gators followed up their 2014 title with a repeat performance this season, becoming the only team other than UCLA and Arizona to do it.
2. Haeger’s hustle
Florida senior Lauren Haeger’s name is often associated with dominant pitching or power hitting. She’s the only player in the history of Division I softball with more than 70 home runs and 70 pitching victories in her career. On Wednesday night, she allowed one run on five hits while striking out five to win her 32nd game of the year. Offensively, she had a run-scoring single in the first inning, and Michigan never pitched to her again, intentionally walking her in her final two at-bats.
Yet it was her hustle play in the bottom of the first that impacted the game as much as anything she did. After Taylor Schwarz singled to left field, Haeger came charging home from second base, arriving simultaneously with the ball. She slid in hard and the ball bounced away from the Michigan catcher, giving the Gators a 3-0 advantage that turned out to be plenty of cushion.
3. Michigan’s close call
Despite falling behind 4-0 in the second inning, Michigan was inches away from cutting it to a one-run deficit in the top of the third. With two runners on base and two outs, Sierra Romero launched a fly ball that was just inches outside the foul pole. She eventually walked to load the bases, but Haeger struck out Kelly Christner to end the inning.
4. One and done
The decisive run of Game 2 was scored in the bottom of the first inning Tuesday night, when Kelsey Susalla singled to drive in Sierra Lawrence, putting Michigan on top of what eventually became a 1-0 victory. Michigan pitcher Hailey Wagner allowed six hits in the complete-game shutout.
5. Walton’s pitching gamble pays off — barely
Florida survived Monday’s Game 1 of the championship series without pitching Haeger, the Gators’ ace and the USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year. Freshman Aleshia Ocasio pitched six innings, exiting with the Gators on top 3-2. Coach Tim Walton kept Haeger on the bench for the seventh inning, instead handing the ball to sophomore Delanie Gourley.
Michigan pushed the tying run to third base with no outs, but Romero didn’t try to score on a ground ball to the shortstop. She never got another chance to come home as Gourley saved the victory.