DeWitt sends Gators back to national championship with walk-off hit

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Maybe the Florida Gators have had a target on their backs all year as they embarked on their journey to defend their national championship. But nobody’s been able to hit it quite yet, and teams are running out of chances to do it.

Back to the national championship series go Tim Walton’s Gators, winners of 25 of their last 27 and seven straight. It’s the fourth trip to the best of three championship series in the last seven years for Florida, and their second in a row.

Their latest may have been the most exciting yet.

Florida struggled to score with runners in scoring position yet again, but an Auburn error scored Justine McLean in the 3rd and Taylore Fuller homered in the fourth to give Florida two runs. Auburn, for their part, scored two runs on a two RBI single off of Lauren Haeger in the fourth. Following the Fuller homer, the two teams waged a classic pitchers’ duel, as Haeger shook a rough start to the game by silencing Auburn for the rest of the game and allowing only one runner past first base and Lexi Davis did the same for Auburn.

Then came the ninth inning. Aubree Munro walked, McLean hit into a fielder’s choice, and then a wild pitch on Kelsey Stewart’s subsequent at bat allowed her to move the second. Stewart then popped out, leaving it up to freshman Nicole DeWitt, who was 0-3 on the day with three straight pop outs. In the biggest at bat of her young life, she did this:

Not bad for a freshman!

But then, Florida loses this game if not for some tremendous defense by center fielder Kirsti Merritt, who twice gunned down an Auburn runner trying to score. And Gator catcher Aubree Munro had to make a ridiculously athletic move to make the tag on the first one:

The bottom line is this: Florida could have so easily lost this game. They didn’t. DeWitt, Munro and Merritt deserve the praise for that. Florida also could have easily lost yesterday, but Lauren Haeger refused to let that happen. And there have been countless other games Florida could have and probably should have lost, but didn’t, because each time, a hero stepped up and bailed the Gators out. That’s what a championship team does. They find ways to win.

And with only two more wins needed to claim college softball’s ultimate prize, that target on the Gators’ backs is getting smaller and smaller as their chase to the title nears its conclusion.

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    Creator and founder of IAKOW 2.0

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