Florida's had some issues at the Women's College World Series with Hannah Rogers on the mound before — but there's nothing to take issue with after the Gators' 11-0 rout of Baylor in their 2014 WCWS opener on Thursday.
Florida jumped on the Bears early, scoring three runs in the bottom of the first on a sacrifice fly by Kirsti Merritt and a two-run double from Bailey Castro, and never let up. Merritt smacked a solo shot in the third to put Florida up 4-0, Kelsey Stewart lanced an RBI single in the fourth to go up 5-0, and the Gators poured on six more runs in the fifth, four of them on freshman Chelsea Herndon's walk-off pinch-hit grand slam, which triggered the run rule that handed Florida the victory.
And that offensive performance is striking, especially given that Florida chased first-team All-American Whitney Canion from the mound in 3.1 innings. But the story of the day was Rogers's shutout, earned via superb pitching we haven't seen from her in Oklahoma City in her career.
Rogers scattered three hits over five innings, striking out three and walking none, and needed just 69 pitches to get through the day. She located well and allowed only scarce and unthreatening contact, dominating the Bears. She was, undoubtedly, the best she's ever been at the Women's College World Series, where she had struggled in two previous trips to softball's highest level.
That, even more than Florida racking up runs, is the key to Florida making a run at its first national championship: Aces coming up in important games helps teams stave off elimination and take leads in the championship series in OKC, something Florida, dominated by Washington's Danielle Lawrie and Arizona State's Dallas Escobedo in championship series in the past, knows well.
If Rogers, this team's ace since late in her freshman year, can pitch like this a few more times over this trip to Oklahoma City, it will probably be a long stay.