Somewhere out there, there are medals of valor waiting for those Alabama fans who didn’t begin swearing revenge in football the moment Hannah Rogers recorded the final out.
Florida swept Alabama, two games to none, to secure the school’s first national championship in softball. The combined score of 11-3 in those two games was more than convincing, and left no doubt as to who the best team was this season. Yes, Alabama took two out of three in the regular season. But the Gators assaulted Alabama ace Jaclyn Traina twice on the biggest stage in the game (yes, there are also some Tide fans who crow about this like it’s something that actually matters.)
Each game was pretty anticlimactic. In game one, the Gators took an early lead on a solo home run in the third inning, and that was all they needed. But they got more anyway in the fifth inning on an RBI double by Kristi Merritt, and then an ensuing single by Stephanie Tofft that drove Merritt home.
On the other side of the coin, Gator ace Hannah Rogers pitched the game of her life. She shut down Alabama’s offense, allowing one hit through six innings. Though she gave up a couple more in the 7th, Alabama couldn’t bring the runners home and Florida won 5-0.
Game two was a little more exciting. Alabama scored first, but then Tofft hit one out. After Kelsey Stewart drove in another run with an RBI single in the second, Kristi Merritt essentially ended the game with a 3 run homer in the fifth to put Florida up 5-1.
Meanwhile, Gator coach Tim Walton made an interesting decision with the pitching. He elected not to use ace Hannah Rogers two nights in a row as the starter, opting instead for Lauren Haeger, the team’s solid second pitching option. Haeger got hit hard a couple times, but did a great job overall. Delaney Gourley relieved her for a few innings and then Rogers came on and slammed the door. Alabama had cut the lead down to 6-3 in the 7th, but when Rogers fielded a two out, weak ground ball and threw to first, the game was over and Florida had its first national championship in softball.
Think about what this championship means to Florida. The players on this team are older than the program itself. Gator softball started in 1997, and though they didn’t take much time to reach the College World Series, they couldn’t grab that elusive national title. They did reach two national championship series against Washington and Arizona State, but their bats went cold as Danielle Laurie and Dallas Escobedo, respectively, shut them down. Now, the Gators finally have that trophy, and it came against one of their biggest rivals.
Looking ahead to next year, the Gators should once again be in the mix for the national championship. They will lose Rogers, but return 7 of 9 starters, and they bring in a talented recruiting class featuring star Harmony slugger Lily Mann to add even more power to an already loaded lineup.
But one championship at a time.
If nothing else, this national championship just goes to show how dominant of an athletic program Florida has.
Since Jeremy Foley was hired in 1992, Florida’s various athletic teams have won 24 national championships. That’s right, 24 national championships in Foley’s 22 years. That means the Gators average more than one national title per year, a clip that our friends in Athens and Tallahassee can only dream of matching. I think it’s fair to say that Florida has the best damn AD in the country, and people should learn to trust him. Even if he makes a mistake here or there. He’s the best in the country, and I dare anybody to challenge that. What all that means is, even when things aren’t going well in one sport, like football, another sport… or sports… will compensate for it.
FSU fans have given Florida lots of grief lately (because trolling to them is akin to breathing), but you know what? It’s not our fault all their other sports suck. Of the 12 sports Florida and FSU play each other in, Florida leads the series in 11, including 34-22 in… yep… FOOTBALL, the only sport they recognize as real. Florida also leads the all sports head to head series by a whopping 492-287, and now they lead the national championship count by a lopsided 33-13 margin. Let the Nole Trolls chew on those numbers.
So, it truly is great to be a Florida Gator, in all kinds of weather. Again, the really great thing about Florida is that when one sport is really bad, other sports will provide some good times to make up for it. Even when there are bad times in one sport, that same sport is bound to produce good times sooner rather than later. Just ask the girls who hoisted a national championship trophy last night. Some of them were on the team that got trucked in their own regional two years ago and eliminated in embarrassing fashion by USF, and look where they are now.
They’re champions, and forever engraved in the history books.