OKLAHOMA CITY — Even the hottest pitching staff in the Women's College World Series couldn't keep Florida's offense from another productive day.
Kelsey Bruder and Brittany Schutte hit back-to-back home runs in the first inning Sunday night, sending Florida to a 9-2 victory over Alabama and into the finals against Arizona State.
The Gators needed to beat the second-seeded Crimson Tide (53-11) twice to reach the championship round and immediately jumped on Kelsi Dunne to take control in both games.
Florida (56-11) scored a World Series record 11 runs in the first inning of a 16-2 rout in the first game, then Bruder and Schutte provided a quick 3-0 lead in the rematch. Aja Paculba added a three-run homer in the seventh and Hannah Rogers (36-7) took a one-hit shutout into the last frame before Alabama pushed across its only two runs.
"We've been doing this for a while now. We've been hitting home runs for a long period of time," coach Tim Walton said. "Everybody said it's the bats and everybody said it's this and everybody said it's that. It's not that. It's our hitters.
"Give them a wood piece, give them a stick. I guarantee they're going to find a way to hit a home run. These guys can really hit."
Walton's squad – which leads the NCAA with 121 home runs and ranks second in runs per game – has scored at least five runs in all five games so far at the World Series. That includes a 6-5 loss to top-seeded Arizona State on Friday night.
The teams will meet again Monday night in Game 1 of a best-of-three series.
"This is everything to us," Bruder said. "There's no other words for that."
The Sun Devils (58-6) got a five-hit shutout from freshman Dallas Escobedo (35-3) to beat Baylor 4-0 and advance to the championship round for the first time since winning their only title in 2008.
"We're excited. When you have the opportunity to play for a national championship, that's what you set forth (to do) the first day when your team comes together," Sun Devils coach Clint Myers said.
"We have two seniors that were here in 2008 and we have a young freshman over there that have been a big reason for our success. So we're excited, we're very happy and the hard work has paid off. But we're not done yet. We still have some more work to do."
The Gators are trying to become the first SEC team to win it all. The Pac-10 has won 22 of the 28 Women's College World Series titles.
"There's been a lot of talk about the Pac-10 and how it dominates. We just want to show that we play the brand of ball they do," Bruder said.
The Gators got home runs from Tiffany DeFelice and Michelle Moultrie in a five-run fourth inning against Escobedo in the first meeting, but it still wasn't enough. And Walton thinks Escobedo changed her approach from that game before never allowed a Baylor runner to reach third base on Sunday.
The Bears (47-15) scored just two runs in four games at the World Series – both on game-ending home runs in extra innings.
Whitney Canion (31-12) wasn't able to match her efforts from an eight-inning shutout in Baylor's World Series opener or a 13-inning shutout to reach the semifinals.
Mandy Urfer hit a two-run home run in the second, Annie Lockwood added an RBI double and Lesley Rogers a run-scoring single for the Sun Devils.
"I feel like I stayed with all my pitches and everything because of the team around me," Canion said. "My gas tank was empty but they kept me going – the dugout, everyone cheering for me. They kept saying they were behind me and everything and that just kept me going. So it was definitely the team around me. Everyone was just positive the whole time."
Alabama brought a shutout streak of 30 1-3 innings into the day, but that came to an end quickly. Moultrie led off the first game with a home run and Dunne (29-6) forced in runs by hitting Cheyenne Coyle with a pitch and walking Paculba before Jackie Traina came on in relief.
Schutte finished the record-setting inning with a grand slam, and the Gators ended up matching the World Series records for runs scored and margin of victory in a game. The game was called after five innings because of the mercy rule.
"They have a powerful offense and they made things happen," Dunne said. "They hit the ball hard all the time."
It's the second time the Gators have dealt their SEC rival a heartache on this stage.
Florida got a walk-off grand slam from Ali Gardiner with two outs in the bottom of the seventh to beat Alabama in the semifinals two years ago and reach the championship series.
"The dominoes kind of fell," Tide coach Patrick Murphy said. "We've been on the other side of it where our offense has just exploded. Sometimes it's one of those days where everything goes their way."