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Sunday, June 16, 2024

Gators softball advances to Women’s College World Series

Florida will advance to the Women's College World Series for the 12th time in program history

Sophomore catcher Jocelyn Erickson goes to bat in the Gators' 4-2 win over the Baylor Bears on Friday, May 24, 2024.
Sophomore catcher Jocelyn Erickson goes to bat in the Gators' 4-2 win over the Baylor Bears on Friday, May 24, 2024.

Florida fans filled Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium with unmatched energy as the Gators had the opportunity to punch their ticket to the Women’s College World Series in a win-or-go-home rubber match against Baylor.

UF held a lead over the Bears from the very first pitch, but both teams battled back-and-forth through all seven frames.

Baylor had one last opportunity to cut the deficit in the top of the seventh inning with two runners on and no outs. However, UF freshman right-handed pitcher Keagan Rothrock held control in the circle and forced an infield pop up to first base to send the Gators to Oklahoma. 

“I was personally confident,” redshirt senior shortstop Skylar Wallace said. “I knew we were gonna get the job done. [It was about] staying really composed, trusting the defense and trusting Keagan.”

The Florida Gators (51-13, 17-7 SEC) defeated the Baylor Bears (36-23, 14-13 Big 12) 5-3 Sunday afternoon at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium to advance to the Women’s College World Series for the 12th time in program history.

In the opening inning of the Gainesville Super Regional, Rothrock held Baylor scoreless. She allowed just two hits through the first three frames.

“We went over those first three batters just to kind of go in depth on what will work and what will get them out,” Rothrock said. “Coming in with that approach today – I think it really helped.”

Florida carried its momentum into the bottom half of the inning. Wallace went 3-for-3 Saturday and continued her strong effort at the dish. She drove a line drive to center field and landed safely at second as Otis advanced to third. 

With the crowd on its feet, sophomore catcher Jocelyn Erickson tied the UF single-season RBI record with a sacrifice fly to right field. She tied Megan Bush's 2011 mark of 80 RBI. 

Junior infielder Reagan Walsh then extended UF’s lead to 2-0 with an RBI line drive single.

Florida carried its first inning spark into the bottom of the second frame. Freshman second baseman Mia Williams seemingly reached on a bunt single, but it was ruled foul. However, she stepped back into the box and smashed a two-run home run over the right-center field wall to double the lead. 

“That was awesome,” Wallace said. “To try to bunt and have two strikes on you and do that, that's legit – that was a huge at bat for us.”

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Bears’ junior pitcher Aliyah Binford stepped in to relieve. She allowed just two hits in the next two innings to stop Florida’s rally and keep the Gators’ offense quiet.

In the top of the fourth inning, Binford delivered a leadoff base hit followed by Baylors’ senior catcher Sydney Collazos’ RBI single to cut UF’s lead to 4-1.

The Bears' battle didn’t stop there. Senior left fielder Emily Hott shrunk the gap to 4-3 with a two-run home run to right field in the top of the fifth. Rothrock responded with two forced fly outs and a strikeout to end the frame.

The Gators fought in the box and loaded the bases with no outs in the bottom of the fifth inning. Freshman third baseman Ariel Kowalewski secured Florida’s 5-3 victory with a final sacrifice fly to deep center field. 

“This is every little girl's dream, playing college ball,” Williams said. “It’s a super awesome feeling.”

Next, Florida will head to Oklahoma City to face Oklahoma State Thursday in Game 1 of the Women’s College World Series. First pitch time is to be announced.

Contact Hailey Hurst at Follow her on Twitter @haileyjhurst.

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Hailey Hurst

Hailey Hurst is a second-year journalism major with a focus in sports media and a sports reporter for The Alligator. In her free time, she enjoys going to the beach and cheering for Miami sports teams.

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