OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) – Florida senior Hannah Rogers is a seasoned vet at the Women’s College World Series and pitched like one on Thursday.
Rogers, appearing in her third WCWS, threw a complete-game three-hit shutout and fifth-seeded Florida rolled to an 11-0 win over No. 13 seed Baylor on Thursday in the NCAA softball championship tournament’s opening round.
Rogers (27-8) threw her fourth shutout of the postseason for the Gators, who have won six of its seven NCAA tournament games this season by shutout. The run-rule win over Baylor (47-15) was the fifth of the tournament for Florida (51-12).
Florida advanced to play Friday against the winner between Florida State and Oregon, while Baylor will face the loser in an elimination game Saturday.
Two errors and a passed ball led to three unearned runs for Florida in the first off Baylor starter Whitney Canion (31-11), who pitched the Bears into the national semifinals in 2011. Bailey Castro had the big hit for the Gators, a two-run double that scored Lauren Haeger and Briana Little.
“For our team to come out and get as many runs as we were able to get there early off of Whitney Canion, I thought that was pretty much the goal, to get out there and score as many runs as we can, because we know what their offense can do and has done,” Florida coach Tim Walton said.
Kirsti Merritt lined a shot over the center field wall to lead off the third inning, putting Florida up 4-0. Aubree Munro’s double to center with one out in the fourth chased Canion and Munro later scored on a single by Kelsey Stewart.
Baylor failed to record an out in the bottom of the fifth as Florida’s first six batters all reached base and scored. Pinch-hitter Chelsea Herndon ended the game with a walk-off grand slam to left-center field while facing her former high school teammate, Heather Stearns. Both attended Hebron High School in Carrollton, Texas.
The loss was Baylor’s worst since falling 14-2 to Georgia three years ago to the day. Baylor hadn’t suffered a run-rule loss since losing 8-0 to Texas A&M to end the 2013 season.
“I feel like we were sucker-punched quick,” Baylor coach Glenn Moore said. “We didn’t respond. It was more of what we did to ourselves than it was Florida did to us. I thought they played a great game and we played maybe the worst game that I have been a part of coaching in four or five years. You just can’t play that way at this level and have a chance to win. We made mistakes all over our lineup.”
Against Rogers, Baylor managed only a third-inning leadoff single by Jordan Strickland and a pair of infield singles by Ari Hawkins and Linsey Hays in the fourth.
“Just the way that I’ve been pitching lately has given me that confidence to just go out there and shut it down,” Rogers said. “Also, how good our offense is doing right now, that just allows you to go out and have fun and do what you do.”
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