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In brief: Florida beats Alabama to win softball national title

Florida's Kirsti Merritt, center, is greeted by her teammates following her three-run home run. (Associated Press)
Florida's Kirsti Merritt, center, is greeted by her teammates following her three-run home run. (Associated Press)

College softball: Kirsti Merritt hit a three-run homer, and Florida defeated Alabama 6-3 on Tuesday night at Oklahoma City, to win its first NCAA softball championship.

The Gators (55-12) swept the championship series 2-0. Florida was the national runner-up in 2009 and 2011.

Jackie Traina, one of the nation’s best pitchers, gave up five runs in 1 1/3 innings before getting pulled for Alabama (53-13).

Florida coach Tim Walton chose not to start ace Hannah Rogers, but she entered the game in the sixth inning after Lauren Haeger and Delanie Gourley gave her a lead. She gave up one run in two innings. Merritt helped her with a spectacular diving catch in center field for the first out in the top of the seventh.

Florida beat its Southeastern Conference rival despite committing four errors and giving Alabama (53-13) plenty of chances to score.

It looked early as though Walton’s decision to start Haeger would backfire. After getting just one hit in the first six innings Monday against Rogers, Alabama got singles from Haylie McCleney and Kallie Case in its first two at-bats on Tuesday. Jadyn Spencer singled to knock in McCleney, giving Alabama its first run of the championship series. But the Crimson Tide got just one run out of the three-hit inning.

Pistons hire Bower as GM

NBA: The Detroit Pistons have hired Jeff Bower to be their general manager.

Bower was the coach at Marist College last season, but he resigned Monday. Athletic director Tim Murray said in a statement that Bower was leaving for “a very specific and compelling NBA opportunity.”

The Pistons hired Stan Van Gundy as their coach and team president last month, and now Bower joins the front office as well.

Bower was previously a general manager and coach in the NBA, holding both those positions with the New Orleans Hornets in 2009-10.

Wittman rewarded with extension: Coach Randy Wittman has received a contract extension from the Washington Wizards.

The Wizards announced that Wittman had been rewarded after leading the Wizards to their first playoff berth since 2008.

Washington beat the Chicago Bulls in the first round before losing to the Indiana Pacers in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

Wittman was promoted to head coach when Flip Saunders was fired in January 2012, the third rebuilding project Wittman has undertaken. He has the worst win-loss record in NBA regular-season history of anyone who has coached at least 400 games – 191-329 – since the league started in 1946.

California Chrome impresses trainer

Horse racing: Art Sherman got his first glimpse of California Chrome in action in two weeks, and the trainer liked what he saw.

Sherman arrived in New York on Monday afternoon and watched his Triple Crown contender gallop at Belmont Park on Tuesday. It was the first time Sherman had observed the chestnut colt since he captured the Preakness.

Sherman says California Chrome is “an amazing horse.”

The Kentucky Derby and the Preakness winner will try for the first Triple Crown since Affirmed in 1978 on Saturday in the $1.5 million Belmont Stakes.

Oracle can race Cup challengers

America’s Cup: The America’s Cup has shaken the rules for the 2017 regatta.

Defending champion Oracle Team USA will be able to race against challengers in early elimination rounds and give either Oracle or a challenger the chance to start the final match with a one-point lead.

Oracle Team USA will be allowed to build two 62-foot catamarans and the challengers only one, although Oracle will be restricted on when it can sail its second boat.

Venues haven’t been selected.

Motor sports: The IndyCar Series road race at its home track will have a new name next year – the Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis.

The Indy-based company agreed to become the title sponsor for the 2015 and 2016 races.

Company founder Angie Hicks said it’s a natural progression for her business, which has been a longtime sponsor of the cars that compete in May’s marquee event at the 2.5-mile Brickyard – the Indianapolis 500. An estimated 40,000 to 50,000 fans attended the first grand prix race on Indy’s rebuilt road course last month.

Chevrolet penalized: IndyCar has penalized Chevrolet for changing an engine too soon in Juan Pablo Montoya’s car at last weekend’s Detroit Grand Prix.

Chevy was docked 10 points in the race for the engine manufacture championship. Chevy had previous penalties rescinded regarding torque and traction control. It will get 10 manufacture points back that were taken away by IndyCar on May 12 because the changes were determined to be unintentional.

NASCAR adjusts Truck Series format: NASCAR has tweaked the format for next month’s Truck Series race at Eldora Speedway, where owner points will now be awarded to the top five teams that do not transfer into the main feature.

NASCAR raced on dirt last season for the first time since 1970 when the Truck Series visited the track owned by Tony Stewart in Rossburg, Ohio. The event used heat races to set the 25-truck field, but teams that didn’t advance did not receive participation points.