BATON ROUGE, La. -- The No. 1-ranked University of Florida softball team swept a Friday doubleheader against Southeastern Conference rival No. 7 LSU with two shutout wins at Tiger Park. Florida scored six runs in the doubleheader, taking Game 1 by a 3-0 score before clinching the holiday weekend series with a 3-0 (nine innings) victory.
Tiger Park held an LSU-record 3,242 fans for Friday's doubleheader.
With the pair of victories, Florida is now 32-1 on the season, which is the best start in school history. In addition, UF has now opened SEC play with three-straight series victories for the first time since 2013.
Florida shutout LSU in last May's meeting at the Women's College World Series and did the same in both games on Friday. This marked the first time that UF blanked the Tigers in three-straight contests since Florida shutout LSU on March 30, 2008 and followed that performance with a doubleheader sweep on April 18, 2009.
In addition, Florida has now earned shutouts in three-straight SEC games for the first time since April 25-26, 2009 when the Gators blanked Arkansas in a three-game set in Gainesville.
Florida blanked Tennessee last Sunday to begin this current streak. UF has not allowed a run 25 consecutive innings after sophomore Aleshia Ocasio and junior Delanie Gourley combined for 16 scoreless frames on Friday.
Friday's nightcap marked the first time UF went into extra innings since May 31, 2015 when UF beat Auburn at the Women's College World Series. This was the first time that UF and LSU played free softball since March 14, 2014 when the Gators defeated the Tigers, 7-6.
Florida is now 3-0 overall in extra-inning games against LSU.
Ocasio (12-1) gave up five hits and struck out eight batters in a complete-game effort to earn the win in the opener. Junior Delanie Gourley tossed the first 6.1 innings in game two, as she recorded seven strikeouts and left 11 Tigers on base.
Ocasio relieved Gourley in the seventh and threw the final 2.2 innings without allowing a hit or walk. The sophomore became the first Gator pitcher to win both ends of a doubleheader this season.
Offensively, rookie Amanda Lorenz paced the Gators in game one as she went 1-for-3 with an RBI double and a walk. In game two, sophomore Nicole DeWitt mashed a three-run home run in the top of the ninth inning to give Florida the extra-inning victory.
Florida improved to 10-1 on the season against ranked opponents.
Game 1 Recap
After Aleshia Ocasio worked out of a pair of jams in the first and second innings, Florida scored the game's first two runs in the third on two hits.
During that frame, a Kelsey Stewart single placed runners on second and third, which set the table for freshman Amanda Lorenz.
Before the rookie launched her team-leading ninth double into left-center field, junior Justine McLean scored on a wild pitch. The two-bagger drove in Stewart to give Florida the two run advantage.
Florida tacked on an insurance run in the sixth when sophomore Kayli Kvistad launched her fifth home run of the season, tying her with Janell Wheaton for the team lead.
After those first two troublesome innings for Ocasio, the sophomore allowed just one LSU baserunner into scoring positon during in the final five innings of the contest.
Game 2 Recap
Florida's defense carried the mantle behind junior Delanie Gourley, as LSU stranded 11 runners on base across her 6.1 innings pitched.
LSU's best chance to score was in the fourth inning when Gourley walked a pair and hit an LSU batter to load the bases with two outs. Unfazed, the Lakeside, Calif. native struck out Bailey Landry to get out of the jam.
In the seventh, Gourley walked a pair of Tigers with one out, which prompted a pitching change from UF head coach Tim Walton. Sophomore Aleshia Ocasio, who threw a complete-game shutout in game one, induced a double play to the first batter she faced to get out of the inning without any damage.
Florida finally broke the scoreless tie in the ninth when Nicole DeWitt launched a three-run home run to right-center field. Taylore Fuller led off the inning by getting hit by a pitch and Kirsti Merritt later singled to set the table for DeWitt.
Ocasio retired the only eight batters she faced to record the win.
News & Notes
- With its doubleheader sweep, UF has now opened its season with three-straight SEC series victories for the first time since 2013.
- UF has now outscored its opponents this season, 214-28.
- In 2015, UF had a plus-174 run differential (235-61) through 33 games.
- In 2014, UF had a plus-186 run differential (238-52) through 33 games.
- Florida's 28 runs allowed through 33 games is tied for the second fewest in school history through this point in any season.
- UF's 2009 squad allowed 23 tallies through 33 contests and Florida's last two NCAA Championship teams had allowed 52 (2014) and 61 (2015) runs, respectively.
- The Gators have made just 12 errors this season and currently sport one of the best fielding percentages (.986) and earned run averages in the nation (0.80). For comparison, Florida had committed 25 errors in its first 33 contests last season and had a fielding percentage of .970. UF went on to record it's a .981 fielding percentage and commit just 33 errors, which were both school records.
- Florida's senior class is now 205-29, which currently ranks eighth among four-year class records in program history.
- They surpassed UF's 2008 graduating class on Friday night, as that group went 204-75 throughout its four seasons.
- Taylore Fuller, Kirsti Merritt, Aubree Munro, Taylor Schwarz and Kelsey Stewart are trying to catch UF's 2011 class which boasted a 238-33 mark during their four years.
- Tim Walton is now just 17 wins away from his 600th win at Florida.
- Walton earned his 700th career win on March 12 at Auburn.
- Kayli Kvistad, who has the highest batting average and RBI total on the team, is hitting .393 (11 for 28) over her last 10 games with two home runs, 11 RBI and three runs scored.
- Kvistad and her classmate Nicole DeWitt have a combined four home runs and 16 RBI in SEC play this season.
- Delanie Gourley crossed the century mark for strikeouts during her outing in game two on Friday night. Meanwhile, UF's other two pitchers are closing in on that mark. (Delanie Gourley - 102, Kelly Barnhill - 99, Aleshia Ocasio - 83).
- They are looking to become the second trio in school history to all record 100+ strikeouts in a season.
- UF achieved this feat last season when Lauren Haeger (214), Aleshia Ocasio (155) and Delanie Gourley (105) all reached the century mark.
- Barnhill is looking to become the fifth Gator freshman in six years to record 100+ strikeouts.
- Florida's pitching trio has now combined to allow just 28 runs, while they have totaled 284 strikeouts. Both of those numbers lead the SEC.
- Ocasio ran her scoreless innings streak to 18.2 with 9.2 shutout innings on Friday. Her season and career long streak is 20 innings.
- Gourley ran her scoreless innings streak to 15.0 with 6.1 shutout innings on Friday. Her season long streak is 27.0, while her career long is 29.0.
- Florida recorded its 16th double play of the season in the sixth inning of game one and its 17th in the seventh inning of game two.
- Kvistad is now one long ball shy of her total from 2015 after she hit her fifth home run of the season in the sixth inning of the game one.
- Amanda Lorenz hit her team-leading ninth double in the opening game of Friday's doubleheader.
- Nicole DeWitt's homer was her second three-run homer in SEC play and her fourth this season.
Head Coach Tim Walton:
On Florida's pitching...
"I thought Delanie (Gourley) did what she had to do, as she was able to make a pitch every time she needed to. Additionally, Delanie had a couple of well-timed strikeouts and we were able to use our defense well enough to get a pair of wins tonight. The double play we turned in the seventh inning of the second game was as big of a moment as you have in a game. Overall, I thought both Aleshia (Ocasio) and Delanie both did a good job of making pitches when they had to."
On Florida's clutch hitting...
"We're constantly searching for an identity as an offense. We've got some young hitters that when they are going good, they're great. When things aren't going as well, they are thinking a lot and getting inside their own heads. Amanda Lorenz got that nice two-strike hit in the gap in the first game, and Nicole DeWitt's two-out three-run homer in the second game was huge. You can recruit, but you just don't know what kind of DNA somebody has until you see them in certain moments. For Nicole to hit a home run like that says a lot about who she really is."
- The Gators now hold a 7-3 advantage over the Tigers in the two schools' last 10 meetings, but LSU holds the all-time series lead, 32-26, including a 15-11 mark in Baton Rouge, La.
- Florida and LSU last met at the Women's College World Series on May 29, 2015, when the Gators defeated the Tigers, 4-0.
The series concludes tomorrow afternoon at 12 p.m. ET on ESPN2. In addition, the series finale can be heard on Florida Sports Talk (WGGG-AM & WMOP-AM/FM and live stats links for the weekend can be found on the Gators' schedule page.