GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- The Florida pitching duo of Aleshia Ocasio and Kelly Barnhill combined for 14 strikeouts in 12 shutout innings, as the No. 1-ranked Florida softball team defeated South Alabama and FIU on Saturday afternoon at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium.
The Gators improved to 20-0 on the season as they defeated the Jaguars 9-0 and Panthers 10-0 (five innings) on the second day of the 2016 Aquafina Invitational. Florida has now totaled 12 shutouts and 10 mercy-rule victories this season.
Offensively, Florida was led by senior Kirsti Merritt who went 5 for 6 on the day with three RBI, two runs scored, one walk and one hit by pitch.
Merritt recorded a career-high four hit performance against South Alabama and became the first Gator since Kelsey Stewart achieved this feat on May 7, 2015 against South Carolina.
In addition, sophomores Nicole DeWitt and Janell Wheaton combined for two home runs and six RBI on the afternoon.
In the circle, Aleshia Ocasio (6-0) defeated the Jaguars by totaling seven strikeouts in seven scoreless innings pitched. The sophomore allowed six hits and walked two USA hitters. Against FIU, Barnhill (7-0) tossed five shutout innings to go along with seven strikeouts and two hits and walks allowed.
South Alabama Recap
Florida loaded the bases in the first inning and scored its first run of the day when Taylore Fuller was hit by a pitch for a team-leading seventh time this season. Senior Kirsti Merritt followed her classmate with a single to right field giving UF a 2-0 advantage.
UF added to its lead in the third when sophomore Janell Wheaton led off the inning with her team-leading fifth home run of the season. Later in the frame after UF loaded the bases, senior Kelsey Stewart recorded an RBI walk.
The Gators were unable to push another run across in the inning.
Florida added a run in the fourth when rookie Amanda Lorenz led off the inning with her first collegiate home run to straight-away centerfield.
After a scoreless fifth, Fuller recorded her first-career triple to right field and scored when her classmate, Kirsti Merritt, singled to right.
Florida added three runs in the seventh which brought the game to its final score of 10-0. During that inning, sophomore Nicole DeWitt (single), Taylor Schwarz (walk) and Lorenz (single) all recorded the three RBI.
Despite scoring 10 runs, Florida left a staggering 14 runners on base.
Right-hander Aleshia Ocasio worked in-and-out of trouble all afternoon, but found a way to throw her third complete-game shutout this season. The Jaguars had their best chance to score in the first inning when Emily Messer led off the game with a single and a pair of walks with one and two outs loaded the bases.
Ocasio recorded two strikeouts and a groundout to get out of inning without any damage.
Florida didn't waste any time and scored six runs on five hits in the bottom of the first inning.
The inning was highlighted by three doubles (Kelsey Stewart, Amanda Lorenz, Kayli Kvistad) and a two-run home run by sophomore Nicole DeWitt.
Florida added a pair of runs in the second when Janell Wheaton recorded an RBI single to right field. Kvistad helped UF score its other run when she drew a base on balls with the bases loaded.
The Gators their final two runs of the game in the third inning when Janell Wheaton notched her team-leading 25th RBI and Taylore Fuller recorded 18th of the season.
In the circle, Kelly Barnhill tossed a two-hit shutout and struck out seven to earn the victory
Florida continues its eight-game homestand tomorrow with the Gators final two games at the Aquafina Invitational. UF will finish the Invite with a doubleheader against Illinois State and Florida A&M beginning at 11:15 p.m.