Florida eliminates Tide, advances to WCWS semis

OKLAHOMA CITY — Jocelyn Erickson came up big and earned a shot at her former team.

Erickson homered and knocked in four runs and No. 4 seed Florida beat No. 14 Alabama 6-4 on Sunday night to advance to the Women’s College World Series semifinals and eliminate the Crimson Tide.

Florida will play three-time defending national champion Oklahoma in the semifinals Monday. Erickson, a catcher, won a national championship with Oklahoma last season. The Gators will have to beat the Sooners twice to reach the best-of-three championship series, while Oklahoma will need just one win to move on.

“I think it’s going to be fun seeing some old friends,” Erickson said. “It’s going to be definitely a competitive semifinals, so we’re getting after it.”

Erickson broke a tie with Megan Bush for the school’s single-season RBI record and now has 84. Bush set the previous record of 80 in 2011.

Korbe Otis and Ariel Kowalewski each added two hits for the Gators (53-14) in a game that started three hours late because of rain and lightning.

Florida pitcher Keagan Rothrock recovered from a rough outing against Texas the previous night. The freshman gave up three earned runs on seven hits against Alabama and now is alone as the nation’s leader with 32 wins.

“I think she turned the page,” Erickson said. “She was hitting her spots better, more focused, more determined. It’s a learning curve yesterday. It’s her freshman year. I’m really proud of her for turning the page.”

Kayla Beaver got the start for Alabama and gave up two runs on six hits in four innings. Jocelyn Briski got the loss in relief for the Crimson Tide (39-20).

The Crimson Tide finished ninth in the Southeastern Conference during the regular season but won their regional at home, then beat No. 3 seed Tennessee on the road in super regionals. Alabama lost its World Series opener to UCLA, then beat Duke to keep the season alive.

“It’s a team whose legacy is going to be they didn’t give up on each other, they kept working,” Alabama coach Patrick Murphy said. “Doesn’t matter what you do regular season, you get a whole new start and you can start fresh. I think they proved to everybody that it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.”

Alabama opened the scoring against Florida in the second. Bailey Dowling got on after a fielding error and she scored on a grounder by Riley Valentine.

Florida tied it in the third when Erickson’s single knocked in Skylar Wallace. Otis scored on a fielder’s choice after getting on with a walk to put the Gators up 2-1.

Alabama tied it at 2 in the third when Marlie Giles singled to score Lauren Johnson.

Reagan Walsh singled and knocked in a run in the fifth to put Florida back in front.

Erickson came up with runners on first and third with two outs in the sixth, and Alabama switched from Briski to Alea Johnson to give her a different look. Erickson took a Johnson pitch over the centerfield wall to make it 6-2.

Alabama hung tough. Kali Heivilin’s RBI single in the sixth made it 6-4. But Rothrock put the Crimson Tide down in order in the seventh.

Now, the Gators could derail Oklahoma’s attempt to become the first team to win four straight national titles.

“I’m excited for the matchup,” Florida coach Tim Walton said. “You come to the Women’s College World Series, you get an opportunity to play Oklahoma, you’re doing something right. I am looking forward to it.”

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