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Twice as nice: Florida repeats as softball national champion with 4-1 win over Michigan

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Florida broke out of its slump early and shut down Michigan late to win its second national title.

@GatorZoneSBall

Florida had struggled to score in the championship series of the Women's College World Series, and struggled to hit with runners on all postseason. It had struggled to keep potent Michigan bats in check. It had, on Tuesday, tensed up with a title on the line, and let a game slip out of its reach.

On Wednesday night, the Gators did none of that.

And so they won a national title.

Florida scored three runs in the first inning and added a fourth in the second, and starter Lauren Haeger limited the Wolverines to just one run over seven innings to win the decisive Game 3 of the WCWS championship series — and become the first team to lose Game 2 of the championship series and still win the national title.

Haeger figured in the scoring in the first inning, knocking home Kelsey Stewart on a sawed-off single to center, before Taylor Schwarz dealt the big blow of the frame with a two-run single. Florida's run in the second came from Justine McLean and Stewart — the former singled and took second on a bunt, and the latter drove her home with a double.

That would be all Florida would get, despite sending a runner to second in all both one of the four subsequent innings, but Haeger made the lead stand up. She fanned Michigan slugger Kelly Christner in the third inning with runners on second and third, and limited the Wolverines' damage in the fifth inning to a single run despite two base-runners.

And in the seventh inning, after No. 9 hitter Abby Ramirez smacked an infield single, Haeger responded by setting down the top of Michigan's lineup — Sierra Lawrence, the immensely dangerous Sierra Romero, and Christner — in order.

The victory gives Florida consecutive national championships, and makes the Gators just the third program (and first SEC school) to repeat in Division I softball, as Florida joins Pac-12 powers Arizona and UCLA with consecutive crowns. Not only that, Florida is now the first program located east of the Mississippi River to win two national titles in a sport that has been dominated by the West Coast.

The dogpile in Oklahoma City on this night may or may not have been sweeter than the one the Gators got to have exactly one year ago today. Who can say whether a first title or a repeat is better?

But that the Gators get to have the argument is testament to their dominance.