The Official Website of the Southeastern Conference
The Official Website of the Southeastern Conference

No. 1 Gators clinch SEC regular season title

1672 days ago
Florida Athletics

GAINESVILLE, Fla. - The No. 1-ranked University of Florida softball team (50-4/18-4 SEC) defeated Arkansas (17-37/1-21 SEC), 9-0 (five innings), in the opener of the teams' three-game Southeastern Conference series on Friday at KSP Stadium. Following Auburn's loss to Texas A&M on Friday night, the Florida softball team secured its sixth Southeastern Conference regular-season championship on Friday night. Florida (50-4/18-4 SEC), picked in the preseason to win the SEC, has won its second-straight SEC regular season crown for the first time since the Gators went back-to-back in 2008 and 2009.

Three different seniors hit home runs for the Gators vs. the Razorbacks and Aleshia Ocasio (19-1) threw a complete-game shutout and recorded five strikeouts while yielding three hits and no walks.

UF's magic number to clinch its sixth SEC Championship is just one. The Gators can win the title with a win or an Auburn loss to Texas A&M on Friday night, or with a win on Saturday. Florida, picked in the preseason to win the SEC, is looking to win its second-straight SEC regular season crown for the first time since the Gators went back-to-back in 2008 and 2009.

Florida has the opportunity to clinch the SEC regular-season title at home for the first time since 1998.

UF wasted no time grabbing the lead on Friday night, as the Gators scored three runs on three hits in the bottom of the first inning.

Kelsey Stewart led off the game with a single, extending her hitting streak to nine games, and Amanda Lorenz followed with a walk. With runners on first and second and no one out, sophomore Kayli Kvistad mashed her sixth double of the season off the centerfield wall to score Stewart.

Kirsti Merritt followed with an infield single to score Lorenz. Florida scored their final run of the inning on a double steal.

UF stretched its lead to 4-0 in the bottom of the second when Stewart hit a solo home run to right.

Arkansas had its best chance to score in the top of the fourth when Heirs and Diaz recorded a pair of singles to place runners on first and third. Unfazed, Ocasio induced a groundout to get out of the jam and keep the Razorbacks scoreless.

Senior Kirsti Merritt began a five-run fifth inning when she launched her seventh home run of the season to straight-away center.

After Janell Wheaton recorded a pinch-hit RBI single to bring the score to 6-0, senior Taylore Fuller hit a walk-off three run home run to end the ball game.

Team Notes

  • With tonight's win, Florida is now 50-4 and still holds the highest win percentage (.926) in the country.
  • Florida's now won at least 50 games in four-straight seasons and 2016 is the eighth time in school history that UF has accomplished this feat.
  • Florida, who's currently in first place in the SEC standings, has its magic number down to one to clinch its sixth SEC Championship.
  • UF can clinch the title on Saturday with a win over Arkansas.
  • Florida is now 18-4 in league play.
  • If the Gators sweep Arkansas this weekend, four losses would be tied with the Gators 2010 squad for the third fewest losses in conference play in school history.
  • On the flipside, Florida could win 20 SEC games for the seventh time in school history.
  • Florida's senior class is now 223-32, which currently ranks fourth among four-year class records in program history.
  • Sitting third on this list is UF's 2010 graduating class that went 225-42 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.
  • Friday's game was broadcast on SEC Network+. Florida is now 27-3 in contests that are streamed online.
  • Florida is now 29-0 this season against unranked opponents this season.

Stat Watch

  • UF has now outscored its opponents this season, 337-60.
  • In 2015, UF had a plus-274 run differential (385-111) through 54 games.
  • In 2014, UF had a plus-255 run differential (377-122) through 54 games.
  • Florida's 60 runs allowed through 54 games is the second fewest in school history through this point in any season.
  • UF's 2009 squad allowed 40 tallies through 54 contests and Florida's last two NCAA Championship teams had allowed more than 110 runs each, respectively.
  • The Gators have made just 25 errors this season and currently sport one of the best fielding percentages (.983) and earned run averages in the nation (0.93). For comparison, Florida had committed 28 errors through 54 contests last season and had a fielding percentage of .980. UF went on to record a .981 fielding percentage and commit just 33 errors, which are both school records.
  • Florida's astounding 0.93 team ERA (355.2 IP) would go down as the third-best ERA for a single season in program history if the season ended today.
  • Top ERA Season's in UF History:
  • 2008 - 0.92 ERA (512.0 IP)
  • 2009 - 0.69 ERA (444.0 IP)
  • Florida's miniscule .159 batting average against (355.2 IP) would go down as the best b/avg. for a single season in program history if the season ended today.
  • Top B/Avg. Season's in UF History:
  • 2008 - 0.176 b/avg. (512.0 IP)
  • 2009 - 0.161 b/avg. (444.0 IP)
  • UF did not allow a stolen base on Friday, remaining the only team in the SEC who has yet to allow more than four stolen bases in 2016.
  • In addition, four stolen bases is the fewest Florida has allowed in school history through 54 games.
  • Florida's opponents have only attempted to steal 10 bases against Aubree Munro and Florida's catchers this season. That mark would shatter Florida's school record of 25 attempts that was set in 2015.
  • In addition, UF's stolen-base-against percentage of 40% (4-10) this season would be the lowest in school history if the season ended today. Florida's 2003 team currently holds that mark as they allowed just 51.7% (31-60) of runners to steal a base safely.
  • Florida recorded its 26th double play of the season in the first inning.
  • UF had turned just 17 double plays through 54 contests a season ago. In addition, Florida's 2016 squad is just two double plays away its program record 28 that it turned during the 2014 season.
  • Taylor Schwarz was involved in the double play, extending her UF record to 66 double plays turned in her career.

Pitching Notes

  • Aleshia Ocasio (19-1), Kelly Barnhill (14-0) and Delanie Gourley (17-3) are looking to become the first trio in school history to all record at least 15 wins in a season.
  • Ocasio and Gourley are trying to become the fifth set of teammates to each record 20 wins in a single season.
  • 2011 - Hannah Rogers (36-8), Stephanie Brombacher (20-3)
  • 2009 - Stacey Nelson (41-5), Stephanie Brombacher (22-0)
  • 2008 - Stacey Nelson (47-5), Stephanie Brombacher (20-0)
  • 2000 - Renise Landry (21-11), Beth Dieter (20-16)
  • Barnhill has the opportunity to join Stephanie Brombacher (2008: 20-0, 2009: 22-0) as only two pitchers to record at least 10 wins in a season and not have a loss.
  • Gourley (186), Barnhill (147) and Ocasio (127) are the second trio in school history to all record 100+ strikeouts in a season. In addition, they first trio in school history to all record 125+ strikeouts in a season.
  • UF is the only school in the nation with 3 different pitchers with at least 100 strikeouts this season!
  • Gourley and Barnhill are trying to become the fifth set of teammates to each record 150+ strikeouts in a single season.
  • 2015 - Lauren Haeger (214), Aleshia Ocasio (155)
  • 2009 - Stacey Nelson (357), Stephanie Brombacher (190)
  • 2004 - Jenny Gladding (217), Stacey Stevens (162)
  • 2000 - Renise Landry (200), Beth Dieter (158)
  • Florida's trio of pitchers are looking to become the second group to all throw at least 100 innings in a single season.
  • UF's 2002 group of Amanda Moore (174.2 IP), Amanda Knowles (113.2) and Mandy Schuerman (105.0 IP) last achieved this feat.
  • Innings pitched totals = Delanie Gourley - 131.2, Aleshia Ocasio - 128.0, , Kelly Barnhill - 96.0
  • Ocasio (136.0, 2015) and Gourley (107.2, 2014) have each achieved this feat once before in their careers.
  • Florida's pitching trio has combined to allow just 60 runs, while they have totaled 460 strikeouts. Both of those numbers lead the SEC.
  • Only two teams in Florida history have ever allowed less than 100 runs in a single season. UF's 2009 squad allowed just 67 runs and its 2008 team allowed 94 tallies.
  • Florida's 460 strikeouts currently ranks fourth all-time in program history for strikeouts in a single season.
  • Ocasio (0.71) and Gourley (0.80) have the No. 3 and No. 4 ERAs in the country and Barnhill is 11th with a 1.39 earned run average.
  • Historically, UF is trying to join its own 2009 squad and South Carolina's 1997 team as the only SEC teams to ever finish a season with two pitchers in the top-five nationally in ERA. In addition, UF has a chance to join FSU's 1993 squad as the only teams to finish a season with three pitchers in the top 10.
  • Ocasio's astounding 0.71 ERA (128.0 IP) would go down as the second-best ERA for a single season in Florida history if the season ended today.
  • Stacey Nelson currently holds the top two single season ERAs in program history, as she recorded a 0.61 ERA (285.1 IP) in 2009 and 0.75 (352.2 IP) in 2008.

Hitting Notes

  • Hitting Streaks:
  • Kelsey Stewart - nine games (season long)
  • Amanda Lorenz - six games (three shy of season long)
  • Kayli Kvistad - three games
  • Janell Wheaton - three games
  • Kayli Kvistad recorded her sixth double and first stolen base of the season in the bottom of the first.
  • Kelsey Stewart mashed her third home run of the season and first since April 16 against ULL.
  • Amanda Lorenz registered her team-leading 13th double in the second inning.
  • Aleshia Ocasio hit her second-career triple and first since Feb. 8, 2015 against Jacksonville in the third inning.
  • Kirsti Merritt hit her seventh home run of the season and 35th of her career in the fifth inning.
  • Taylore Fuller recorded her eighth homer in 2016 and 36th of her career to defeat Arkansas on Friday.
  • After scoring three runs on Wednesday night, Kelsey Stewart is now tied with Aja Paculba for the school record in runs scored with 253.
  • Kvistad and Lorenz are challenging for the top on-base percentage in school history, as they each have recorded an OBP of .518 and .527 thus far this season.
  • Bailey Castro set the program record a season ago when she reached base at a .536 clip.
  • Amanda Lorenz, who's currently hitting .400, is on pace to record the highest batting average for a freshman in school history. In addition, she could become the first rookie in program history to have an on-base percentage over .500.
  • Kelsey Stewart holds the batting title as she hit .378 during her freshman season in 2013.
  • Other freshman ranks that Lorenz is climbing into:
  • Runs Scored - 6th (51)
  • Hits - 6th (62) - 63 is fifth, 68 is fourth, 71 is third, 75 is second
  • Doubles - 3rd (13)
  • Walks - 2nd (42)

Coaches' Corner

Head Coach Tim Walton:

On Florida's seniors on Friday night...

"It was pretty cool for three of them to come in and deliver a homerun. All five of them keep telling me it's 'senior year,' so they had cupcakes in the locker room pregame. It's going to be tough, tomorrow's going to be a tough day. They are all good kids who have worked really hard and done a lot to elevate the status of our program. "

On Aleshia Ocasio...

"Her stuff is really good. Aleshia (Ocasio) is throwing at three different speeds. When a pitcher is able to throw at three different speeds with the kind of spin she has, and the way she locates her pitches, it makes it really tough on opposing hitters."

Series History

  • Florida leads the all-time series with Arkansas, 42-10; that includes a 22-5 advantage in Gainesville.
  • UF has defeated UA 22 straight times, which is Florida's second-longest winning streak over an SEC team in school history. UF's top streak is 28 when UF beat South Carolina from April 13, 2003 through May 4, 2013.

Next Up

This series continues tomorrow afternoon at 1 p.m. ET on ESPNU and it can be heard on Florida Sports Talk (WGGG-AM & WMOP-AM/FM). Live stats links for the contest can be found on the Gators' schedule page.