Florida 4, Oregon 0: Hannah Rogers has Gators rolling at Women's College World Series

Rich DeCray

Florida hasn't just won its two games in Oklahoma City: It has dominated. Hannah Rogers is the chief reason why.

There was no knockout punch this time. Florida's Thursday game-ender, Chelsea Herndon, grounded out in her lone at-bat.

The Gators were not as steadily dominant at the plate, either. Florida went up 1-0 on Oregon in the second inning on a solo shot by Bailey Castro, then added three more runs, two on a dropped pop-up, in the third, and never scored again.

They chased Oregon ace Cheridan Hawkins — after 3.1 innings, the same point at which they chased Baylor ace Whitney Canion on Thursday — but failed to extend their lead against reliever Karissa Hovinga.

But one constant remained: Senior Hannah Rogers, who gave up three hits in a complete game shutout of the Ducks a day after giving up one hit in a five-inning blanking of Baylor, looked steely, unflappable, and unhittable.

Rogers has yet to allow a run in Oklahoma City, and has pitched 12 spotless innings, striking out eight batters and walking just one, in what was once her house of horrors.

It wasn't like this for her at the Women's College World Series in 2013, when she posted a 5.48 ERA, and issued twice as many walks (10) as she rung up strikeouts. It wasn't like this for her in 2011, when she was lit up thrice by eventual champion Arizona State.

And she wasn't like this in 2012: Her ugly, ill-advised donning of blackface for a Halloween party was the first of several incidences of childishness and cliquishness by a team that splintered spectacularly, flaming out in the NCAA Tournament after three starters were dismissed from the program on the first day of the event.

Now, Rogers is visibly older and calmer, and I'd like to think she's wiser, too. Her pitching, always reliant on location and deception, would certainly reflect growth in understanding, especially of late: She hasn't conceded a run in NCAA Tournament play, posting goose eggs in 28 consecutive innings, and isn't even allowing much in the way of meaningful contact. Oregon got just two fly balls in play against Rogers, and the lone line drive of the day went right to her; she promptly turned it into a double play to end the sixth.

Florida's defense has picked Rogers up, in fairness. A deceptively great Briana Little catch saved an extra-base hit on Thursday; a rare 5-4-3 double play extinguished one threat on Friday, while slick glove work from Kathlyn Medina turned one sharp grounder into an out.

But Rogers pitches to contact, in the sense that she nibbles with pitches destined to be grounders, and so that's to be expected. It's only mildly surprising that she's had this much success with that approach this postseason: She's been so locked in that she left Oregon fuming about the strike zone on Friday, and most of the plays Florida's defenders have had to make have been rudimentary at best.

With this Rogers, the Gators have the look of a championship club.

Rogers's laserlike focus has helped Florida run roughshod in this postseason. Florida's outscored its NCAA Tournament foes by a staggering 64-4 count, and leads the Women's College World Series in runs scored (15) and allowed (zero). Simply put, with the exception of a loss to Washington in the second game of their Super Regional, the only game of Florida's postseason in which Rogers didn't pitch, the Gators have chomped everything in their way.

They will give their bite a break on Saturday off, and await either Baylor, Florida State, or Kentucky on Sunday, needing just one more win to make the WCWS championship series for the third time in six years.

They should be favored to get that win. They might be favored to win it all.

And if they do, it will probably be thanks to Hannah Rogers, now so different from who she was and distant from her struggles that she's been able to produce the same brilliance over and over again in postseason play.

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