2019 NCAA softball tournament: Florida grabs final WCWS spot with win over Tennessee
The final spot in the Women's College World Series belongs to Florida.
The host Gators defeated SEC rival Tennessee 2-1 in eight innings on Sunday in Gainesville to join Oklahoma, UCLA, Washington, Arizona, Minnesota, Alabama and Oklahoma State in the season's annual showcase in Oklahoma City.
Jaimie Hoover's eighth-inning, two-out single scored Amanda Lorenz for a walk-off win.
Florida's win means seniors Kelly Barnhill and Lorenz, two of the greatest players in Gators history, get one last shot at a national title.
Florida won back-to-back titles prior to their arrival. As freshmen, the Gators' season came to a stunning close in the super regionals. As sophomores, they lost to Oklahoma in one of the greatest championship series the game has ever seen. As juniors, they were eliminated by Oklahoma yet again.
Florida, making a third straight trip to Oklahoma City, will open against Oklahoma State, which eliminated defending champion Florida State on Saturday.
The Women's College World Series opens Thursday. A champion will be crowned June 4 or June 5.
Here's how all eight super regionals unfolded.
Florida gives extra effort
Jaimie Hoover had already faced Tennessee pitcher Ashley Rogers three times Sunday when she stepped to the plate in the bottom of the eighth inning. Three times -- and three strikeouts.
This time, the score was tied 1-1, there were two outs, and Amanda Lorenz, who had hit a one-out double, stood on third base.
This time, Hoover sent a line drive over the head of Tennessee shortstop Aubrey Leach for a walk-off win and a wild celebration.
The Gators' 2-1 Game 3 victory sends Florida to its third consecutive Women's College World Series and eighth in program history.
Much like the game Saturday night, this one was a grind. After giving up a run early, Rogers dialed it in. Before Lorenz's double in the eighth, Rogers had retired 15 consecutive Florida hitters.
Fortunately for the Gators, Kelly Barnhill was doing the same. She took a 1-0 lead into the seventh before giving up a leadoff home run to Haley Bearden. The senior responded by getting the next six outs.
Next up for Florida is 13th-seeded Oklahoma State, which stunned Florida State in the Tallahassee Regional to advance.
Game 1: (5) Florida 3, (12) Tennessee 0
Game 2: (12) Tennessee 3, (5) Florida 2 (nine innings)
Game 3: (5) Florida 2, Tennessee 1 (eight innings)
Florida (49-16) advances to Women's College World Series
Minnesota punches program's first ticket
The Minnesota Gophers made the most of their first time hosting a super regional, beating LSU 3-0 on Saturday for a two-game sweep to earn their first trip to the Women's College World Series.
Minnesota rode the arm of Amber Fiser, who has thrown every pitch -- 559 of them -- for the Gophers in the postseason, to send home LSU. The Tigers had won more elimination games (21) than any other team in the past 10 years.
Fiser gave up just three hits and walked three while striking out four for Minnesota, which faces the winner of the UCLA-James Madison super regional showdown to open the WCWS.
Fiser got all the run support she needed when Allie Arneson led off the fifth inning with a solo home run to left field, just her third home run of the season. But the Gophers gave Fiser a pair of insurance runs in the seventh.
Katelyn Kemmetmueller opened the inning with a base hit and took second on a wild pitch. She scored on a base hit up the middle by Emma Burns, sliding under the tag of LSU catcher Michaela Schlattman. Burns had taken second on the throw home and came around to score on Carlie Brandt's base hit to left, chasing LSU pitcher Maribeth Gorsuch.
Fiser, who needed only six pitches in the first inning, calmly pitched her way out of a few jams against the Tigers. She ended both the second and third innings with strikeouts after LSU put a runner in scoring position both times. LSU had runners at second and third with two out in the bottom of the fifth, but Fiser got Shelbi Sunseri on a pop foul to end the threat.
Fiser faced the heart of the order (4-5-6) in the sixth. Shemiah Sanchez popped out, and Amanda Doyal struck out before Savannah Stewart lined a base hit to left. Amber Serrett grounded out to third to end the inning.
Fiser hit Elyse Thornhill with a pitch with one out in the bottom of the seventh. Alyiah Andrews appeared to drop in a base hit to right but was called out when her foot was ruled out of the batter's box when she made contact. Fiser got the last out on a groundout to second to send Minnesota to Oklahoma City.
Fiser, a junior, ran her record to 31-7. That ties her for the second-most wins in a season in program history (done three times by Sara Groenewegen).
Game 1: (7) Minnesota 5, (10) LSU 3
Game 2: (7) Minnesota 3, (10) LSU 0
Minnesota (46-12) advances to Women's College World Series
Washington cruises into field
Game 2 of the Seattle Super Regional, at one point postponed until Sunday by weather, instead got off to a late start Saturday night. The way the game went, Kentucky probably wished the postponement had held firm.
Just two batters in, Morganne Flores circled the bases on a double and two throwing errors, and Washington was off and running to a 5-0 victory and a trip to its third straight Women's College World Series.
The 1-0 lead was all Huskies pitcher Gabbie Plain needed, but Washington tacked on a pair of insurance runs in the sixth inning and two more in the seventh. In the sixth, coach Heather Tarr called on pinch hitter Noelle Hee after Emma Helm walked, and Hee promptly blasted a two-run homer to right for a 3-0 lead. Taryn Atlee's bases-loaded single drove in two more in the seventh, giving Plain a 5-0 lead.
Plain, who threw a no-hitter against Mississippi State to clinch the regional title for Washington, combined with Taran Alvelo to shut out the Wildcats in Friday's opener. On Saturday, the Australia native gave up only two hits and one walk while striking out eight as the Huskies posted their sixth shutout in the past seven games. Plain has not given up a run in 32 consecutive innings. Kentucky did not advance a runner to second base Saturday.
Plain, who admitted that she was nervous pitching in the WCWS last season, said after the game that she is more confident heading to Oklahoma City this year, particularly with the Huskies' stellar defense backing her up.
"It's incredible that I've been able to have these experiences so far," Plain told ESPN's Holly Rowe. "It's always that little bit more confidence factor the second time around, especially with these girls. It's so much fun. You sort of can't not be confident with them behind your back because they're just incredible."
The Huskies became the seventh team to sweep the super regionals without giving up a run. Oklahoma became the sixth earlier Saturday when it shut out Northwestern.
Washington joins UCLA and Arizona in the WCWS, marking the 10th time in the super regional era that the Pac-12 has sent three or more teams to Oklahoma City. The Huskies will face Arizona in the WCWS opener on Thursday.
Game 1: (3) Washington 3, (14) Kentucky 0
Game 2: (3) Washington 5, (14) Kentucky 0
Washington (50-7) advances to Women's College World Series
Arizona slugs its way to OKC
The Arizona Wildcats will make their 23rd appearance in the WCWS and their first since 2010 after a no-doubt 9-1 win Saturday to sweep Ole Miss in the Tucson Super Regional.
Arizona, seeking its first national title since 2007, will play Washington on Thursday in Oklahoma City. Arizona has won the national championship eight times, trailing only UCLA (11) for the most all time.
Against Ole Miss, the Wildcats scored about every way possible. The Wildcats pounded out 10 hits, including three home runs, and plated a pair of runs on two Ole Miss errors. The three home runs give Arizona 106 for the season, second-most in Division I. Oklahoma, also headed to the WCWS, has 108 home runs this season.
Ole Miss had its chances, but Wildcats pitcher Alyssa Denham and the defense behind her came through in the clutch. Trailing 1-0 after Dejah Mulipola's home run for Arizona, Ole Miss loaded the bases with nobody out in the second. Denham struck out the next two hitters and induced a groundout to end the inning.
Ole Miss finally scored when Autumn Gillespie's long home run to left in the third tied it at 1-1, but Arizona broke it open in the fourth with three runs. Reyna Carranco drove in Malia Martinez with a base hit, and she and Mulipola both scored on a hit to left by Hannah Bowen that was lost in the sun and rolled to the wall.
Martinez added a solo homer in the fifth for a 5-1 Wildcats lead.
Ole Miss once again threatened, with runners at second and third and one out in the fifth. Gillespie grounded to short, and Arizona's Jessie Harper threw home to get pinch runner Kelsha Loftin for the second out. With Brittany Finney batting, Gillespie took second uncontested to again put runners at second and third. Denham got Finney on a strikeout as Ole Miss left two more stranded.
The Rebels left seven runners on base Saturday and 15 in the two games against the Wildcats.
Arizona scored four runs in the seventh, on a two-run homer by Alyssa Palomino-Cardoza, an RBI single from Rylee Pierce and an error.
Game 1: (6) Arizona 5, (11) Ole Miss 2
Game 2: (6) Arizona 9, Ole Miss 1
Arizona (46-12) advances to Women's College World Series
UCLA ends James Madison's run
UCLA freshman pitcher Megan Faraimo had secured just two outs all postseason for the Bruins when coach Kelly Inouye-Perez handed her the ball to start Saturday night against James Madison.
Against James Madison's Megan Good, one of three finalists for USA Softball player of the year.
With a trip to the Women's College World Series on the line.
A fist-pumping, foot-stomping Faraimo struck out four through the first two innings and didn't give up a run.
That's when teammate Rachel Garcia stepped up to the plate.
With two outs and runners on second and third in a scoreless tie, Good chose to challenge her fellow player of the year finalist. On a 3-1 pitch, Garcia hit a two-run single. Taylor Pack followed with a two-run homer to give UCLA a 4-0 lead.
The Bruins tacked on two more in the fourth, and Good gave way to Odicci Alexander.
Faraimo wound up pitching 5⅓ innings, giving up two runs and four hits in the Bruins' 7-2 win. She struck out eight. Garcia pitched the final 1⅔ innings to send UCLA to its 29th Women's College World Series and fifth in a row.
Faraimo's performance was excellent news for the Bruins, who thought they leaned too heavily on Garcia a year ago in Oklahoma City.
James Madison, which scored two runs in the sixth, was trying to become the eighth unseeded team to reach the Women's College World Series.
Game 1: (2) UCLA 6, James Madison 1
Game 2: (2) UCLA 7, James Madison 2
UCLA (51-6) advances to Women's College World Series
Oklahoma State eliminates the champs
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- These Cowgirls have grit.
Oklahoma State is making its first trip to the Women's College World Series since 2011 after beating Florida State 3-2 on Saturday, thanks to a resolve that defied its circumstance. Against the defending champs, on the road in sweltering mid-90-degree heat, coach Kenny Gajewski's players didn't falter.
When ace Samantha Show struggled and had to be pulled in the bottom of the fifth, after the Seminoles stole a run and the momentum, there was no panic. Logan Simunek entered, threw a wild pitch to put runners on second and third with one out and only dug in further. When she struck out Cali Harrod swinging at a nasty rise ball, she screamed at catcher Mackenzie Thomas and pumped her fist. Then, with a full count and Carsyn Gordon fouling off pitch after pitch, she induced a lineout to shortstop Kiley Naomi and again let her emotions show, pumping her fist wildly and embracing her teammates as they left the field.
The next frame, just for good measure, the Cowgirls played fundamental softball, manufacturing an insurance run thanks to a hit-by-pitch, a stolen base and a sacrifice fly.
Even when they took a pitch to the body, as Show and Michaela Richbourg did, they didn't flinch. It's hard to tell if they even blinked.
If you went into the series expecting Florida State's championship experience to overwhelm Oklahoma State, whose only players with super regional experience were transfers, then you were wrong. In the win-or-go-home final game, it was the Seminoles who appeared to feel the pressure, committing four errors. The Seminoles entered the NCAA tournament with more home runs than any other team in the country (104) but managed just one all series.
It was Oklahoma State that was dancing in the dugout between innings. It was Chyenne Factor, who went to the plate in the third inning on Saturday without a hit in the series, turned on a pitch over the middle of the plate and sent it over the left-field wall for a home run.
Show set the tone for a team whose edge proved the difference in reaching the WCWS. If she wasn't intimidating, she was certainly determined, pitching a masterful Game 1 and a gutsy Game 3. Everyone from Stillwater fed off it.
Heck, in such sweltering heat -- as patrons fanned themselves and escaped the sun by hiding under umbrellas and tents -- these Cowgirls dared to wear their black uniforms, as if to say that nothing was going to stand in their way.
They're heading back to Oklahoma, but they aren't going home. They're going to Oklahoma City with designs on winning it all.
Gajewski went into this series knowing it would be a grind. He knew it would take everything they had, and as he said, "It did."
Give FSU credit, Gajewski said, but don't forget that Oklahoma State wasn't handed anything.
"Make no mistake: We earned it, we took it."
-- Alex Scarborough
Game 1: (13) Oklahoma State 3, (4) Florida State 1 (9 innings)
Game 2: (4) Florida State 4, (13) Oklahoma State 1
Game 3: (13) Oklahoma State 3, (4) Florida State 2
Oklahoma State (44-15) advances to WCWS
Alabama rolls by Texas
Alabama took advantage of a costly Texas error to return to its first Women's College World Series since 2016.
KB Sides and Bailey Hemphill hit back-to-back homers in a five-run third inning, and a late Longhorns' rally fell short. The Crimson Tide won Game 3 of the Tuscaloosa Super Regional 8-5 on Saturday.
Maddie Morgan went 3-for-3 with three RBIs, hitting a tie-breaking sacrifice fly with one out in the third. The inning continued when Texas center fielder Reagan Hathaway dropped Claire Jenkins' fly ball, which would have been the third out in the inning.
Shealyn O'Leary, who came on in relief in Game 2 on Friday after Miranda Elish went down due to injury, walked pinch hitter Caroline Hardy. That brought up Sides, who cranked a 1-0 pitch over the center-field fence for a three-run homer.
Hemphill made it 6-1 when she followed with a solo blast to left field for her 25th homer of the year, tying Kelly Kretschman for the Alabama single-season home run record.
Shannon Rhodes brought the Longhorns within 7-5 when she hit a grand slam in the top of the fifth inning, but Montana Fouts retired eight of the last 10 hitters she faced, getting the game-tying run, MK Tedder, to fly out to end the game.
The Longhorns used three pitchers -- Brooke Bolinger, O'Leary and Ariana Adams -- after relying on Elish in four regional elimination games.
Elish suffered an injury to her sinuses after she took a throw to the face in the second inning of Game 2 but was with her Texas teammates in the dugout for the elimination game.
O'Leary, who allowed one run in 5⅓ innings out of the bullpen Friday, gave up five runs (one earned) and four hits in 1⅓ innings on Saturday.
Texas committed a tournament-high 14 errors.
Yes Bailey I love it!!!!! Keep hitting girl������������������������- Kelly Kretschman (@yankeekk12) May 25, 2019
Game 1: (8) Alabama 3, (9) Texas 0
Game 2: (9) Texas 7, (8) Alabama 5
Game 3: (8) Alabama 8, (9) Texas 5
(8) Alabama (57-7) advances to Women's College World Series
Oklahoma sweeps Northwestern
After Oklahoma's Game 1 win over Northwestern on Friday, coach Patty Gasso said she didn't care about numbers. It was a letter she was interested in, namely a "W."
It wasn't to appease their coach that the Sooners put up 12 hits, including five home runs, in an 8-0 win over Northwestern on Saturday to reserve them a spot in the Women's College World Series field. It wasn't to avoid extra batting practice or sprints that they had more hits (four) and more runs (four) in a single inning than they did in the entirety of Friday's 3-0 win.
But perhaps it was to silence the whispers that top-seeded Oklahoma was starting to feel pressure as it pursued a third national title in four years. Or perhaps it was just the best way for the star-studded senior class to say farewell to Marita Hines Field.
With Hines herself sitting in the outfield, senior Sydney Romero, one of three finalists for USA Softball national player of the year, went 3-for-5 with a homer and a double. She led off the game with a walk and scored on fellow senior Fale Aviu's double.
Romero led off the third inning with a solo home run. Three batters later, sophomore Jocelyn Alo hit a two-run home run. Freshman Grace Green had a homer in the fifth, and senior Caleigh Clifton had one of her own in the sixth. Sophomore Lynnsie Elam tacked one on in the seventh. Those five gave the Sooners a program-record 108 homers for the season.
Junior right-hander Mariah Lopez started in the circle for the Sooners, giving Giselle Juarez a well-deserved day off, and went 4⅔ shutout innings. Junior right-hander Shannon Saile finished it off without surrendering a run, making Oklahoma the sixth team to win a super regional with a pair of shutouts.
All those numbers meant that Gasso and her team could focus on a few more letters: WCWS, where the Sooners will be going for the program's fifth title. They'll take on Alabama next.
TO THE PROMISE LAND! BOOMER BABY!!!!!!!- Lauren Chamberlain (@LChamberlain44) May 25, 2019
Stoked for this team. https://t.co/vgYqqyJwkG
Game 1: (1) Oklahoma 3, (16) Northwestern 0
Game 2: (1) Oklahoma 8, (16) Northwestern 0
Oklahoma (54-3) advances to Women's College World Series