All postseason, it has happened slowly, and then all at once, for these Florida Gators.
They came in as the No. 5 seed, off a dispiriting early exit at the SEC Tournament, then they rampaged through their regional. They romped against Washington, then allowed the Huskies to tie their Super Regional series, then blasted them with lightning bolts to advance to the Women's College World Series. They came to Oklahoma City, a place that has been a house of horrors for some Gators, then destroyed three excellent teams en route to the championship series.
On Monday, it happened slowly — with an Aubree Munro swat of a Jackie Traina fastball, with Hannah Rogers retiring the first 12 batters she faced — and then all at once — with two runs in the fifth and two more in the seventh, inducting Traina to the sorority of first-team All-American pitchers Florida has chased in Oklahoma City.
It was Florida 0, Alabama 0, and then it was Florida 5, Alabama 0, and then it was over.
And now that it is over, Florida is one win from a national title for the first time in the nascent powerhouse's short history.
Rogers was the star on this night, as she has been throughout this postseason, and she shined brightly on the diamond. She scattered four hits, all singles, and allowed three of them in the bottom of the seventh. No Tide player reached third, and no batter threatened to park one of her dipping, diving pitches over the fence.
But the defense was excellent, too, if not as spectacular as it was in Florida's Sunday win over Baylor: Both of the first two baserunners the Tide got were erased by Florida defenders turning double plays, and the best reason that didn't happen for the last two was that they both reached base with just one out left for the Gators to record.
Florida rapped eight hits off of Traina, whose fireballs were timed and turned around and whose control also led to three walks. About the only fault one could find with the Gators, their six strikeouts, barely mattered: The aggressiveness that led to swings on two-strike counts was the same thing that led to the hits.
Slowly, this Gators team has grown into a juggernaut; all at once, in 24 hours, Florida could own a national championship for the first time, something that had proved just slightly too elusive for dominant Gators squads of the past to snatch.
Once that goal is accomplished, that trophy raised, these Gators may fall asleep from the hyper-wakeful state they have seemed to live in for these last three weeks.
But I don't think that will happen until the title is theirs. They have promises to keep.