Florida's Hannah Rogers tosses a complete-game gem against Alabama
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) Hannah Rogers just keeps on rolling.
Florida's senior standout threw a four-hitter to help Florida defeat Alabama 5-0 in Game 1 of the best-of-three national championship series Monday night. The Gators (54-12) now are just one win from their first national title after runner-up finishes in 2009 and 2011. Game 2 will be played Tuesday night.
Rogers took a one-hitter into the bottom of the seventh in the matchup of Southeastern Conference rivals. She had a perfect game through four innings.
"I wasn't really aware of it," she said of the perfect start. "I just kept using my defense, and I try not to look up at the scoreboard too much unless I'm looking at the count."
Rogers has held opponents scoreless in 46 of her past 47 innings.
"I think Hannah was terrific tonight," Alabama coach Patrick Murphy said. "I think it's one of the best games she's played against us. It was just a continuation of her postseason."
Florida coach Tim Walton was fairly calm about the first championship series win in school history.
"You can tell by my voice that I'm not really very excited yet because there's really nothing to get excited about," he said. "We've won one game. It's a race to two in this series. We get that `W' tomorrow, you'll hear a different voice."
Jackie Traina got the loss for Alabama (53-12). She gave up five runs in 6 1-3 innings after having allowed just one earned run in her first three games during the World Series.
The Crimson Tide hadn't been shut out since Feb. 16, but they couldn't string anything together against Rogers, who was hitting her spots.
"We just didn't continue an inning," Murphy said. "That's not like us."
Alabama lost the first game of the championship series two years ago against Oklahoma, then won the next two to win the title. The Crimson Tide seemed relaxed after the loss and were looking forward to Tuesday's game.
"It's not a real big deal to us," Murphy said.
Aubree Munro got the Gators going with a solo homer to left-center in the third inning. It was her third of the season.
"Getting that first hit is a key to a lot of games," Walton said. "I know most people think that it sounds easy, but getting that hit and not getting no-hit is awesome. Breaking up the no-hitter, the shutout and the all the other stuff with it is huge."
In the top of the fifth, Florida got it going with two outs. Leadoff hitter Kelsey Stewart had a bunt single, then Kirsti Merritt doubled to left center to score Stewart. Stephanie Tofft singled to score Merritt and push Florida's lead to 3-0.
Alabama's Kaila Hunt broke up Rogers' perfect game with a single in the bottom of the fifth, but the Crimson Tide couldn't score after getting a runner to second.
Florida got two insurance runs in the top of the seventh. A sacrifice fly by Tofft scored Stewart, then Lauren Haeger's RBI double scored Merritt. Alabama got three hits in the bottom of the seventh inning against Rogers, giving the Crimson Tide hope that Tuesday will be different.
"I think we finished the game fairly strong," Alabama's Haylie McCleney said. "I know we didn't score any runs, but we did get to her. We proved that we can hit her. She didn't no-hit us, she didn't one-hit us. I think going into tomorrow, that's something that we're all going to look at, kind of visualize that seventh inning. We know that we can get to her, we've just got to do it earlier tomorrow."
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