They did it.
They buckled down on defense, came through with clutch hits with runners on base, and avoided making costly mistakes. And when it was all said and done, they scrambled onto the field and celebrated.
They, of course, being the national champions from Gainesville. It’s the second straight NCAA title for the Florida Gators, and it came in the program’s fourth trip to the national championship series in seven years. Golf clap for Tim Walton and Co.
Florida erased some pretty nasty history that was working against them. Since the championship series was installed, every single national champion won the second game of the best two out of three series- either they swept the series in two straight games, or came back from losing the first game to win the next two to take the series. Michigan won the national championship via the latter route in 2005.
Another factor that seemed to favor Michigan was the decisive game’s pitching matchup- Florida’s Lauren Haeger vs. Michigan’s Haylie Wagner. The same duel produced an ugly 1-0 win for Michigan last night, as Florida’s hitters failed to ever generate some solid contact. Michigan couldn’t do much against Haeger either, but they got a run out of it in the first inning and held on.
But that was last night. This was tonight. And tonight, the Gators produced a memory they’ll never forget.
Florida wasted no time getting on the board. Kelsey Stewart got hit by a pitch to start the game, and Lauren Haeger singled her home two batters later (after DeWitt reached on a bunt). That set the stage for Taylor Schwarz, who drove in two more with a single to left field. An inning later, Stewart doubled home Justine McLean to make it 4-0 after two innings.
And because Lauren Haeger was her usual dominant self on the mound- allowing one run and five hits in seven innings- that was that.
This win does more than place “Florida” in a record book. It does more than send a trophy back to Gainesville. It does more than make a memory. This win, and this championship, cements not only Florida softball, but Florida’s entire athletic program, as the nation’s best over the last quarter century. It gives the Gator Nation yet another something to be proud of at a time where such a thing is desperately needed.
In All Kinds Of Weather means celebrating the good times, too. And what better time is there than winning a second straight national championship?