On Sunday, Nicole DeWitt was the freshman who led Florida to victory. Last night, it was Aleshia Ocasio’s turn, and she led Florida to a 3-2 win over Michigan in Game One of the Women’s College World Series Championship Series. Another day, another hero. No big deal. That’s what this Gators team does.
The freshman pitcher from Harmony High School took the mound for the first time in two and a half weeks and tossed five innings of shutout ball, allowing only five hits, and striking out three. Michigan did score two runs in the sixth, but Ocasio worked out of that jam and turned it over to Delaney Gourley for the seventh, who got into some trouble of her own- and escaped unscathed thanks to a tremendous play from shortstop Katie Medina.
And that was that, because Florida got three runs, all off the bat of Lauren Haeger (two via a home run, one via a run scoring double), in their at bats. Was it pretty? Not in the least. The Gators again left the bases loaded, meaning the 3-2 score could have been a lot more lopsided than it was. But no matter. Florida is one win away from its second consecutive national championship.
The decision to start Ocasio in favor of Haeger- the only player in NCAA history to record 70 wins and 70 home runs- was a risky one, but one that Tim Walton thought could greatly benefit the Gators later in the series. Ocasio is a great pitcher, and she’s going to be a phenomenal one someday very soon, but Haeger is the unquestioned ace of the staff. However, she’s been working overtime all week in Oklahoma City, and Walton figured she needed the rest. It was a move very reminiscent of last year’s championship series against Alabama, though the script was reversed- Walton rested ace Hannah Rogers and gave Haeger the start in Game Two against the Crimson Tide. That decision paid off in spades. This one appears to have, too.
All that stands between Florida and back to back national championships is one more outstanding pitching effort from the outgoing Haeger. All that stands between Florida and NCAA softball immortality is one more display of clutch hitting. All that stands between Florida and an unforgettable accomplishment is one more game of tight defense.
All that stands in the way of the #EverythingSchool adding another piece of hardware to its collection is one… more… win…