TAMPA, Fla. - The No. 4-ranked University of Florida softball team picked up a pair of quality victories over No. 6-ranked Michigan and St. John's on Saturday, Feb. 11 at the USF Softball Stadium. The team battled to a 5-2 victory over the Red Storm in the first game of the day then fought its way to a 2-1 win over the Wolverines in 10 innings.
The Gators (3-0) jumped out to lead first in each game today but found that it was going to be much tougher of a day than yesterday's opening day 9-0 victory over Illinois State.
No. 4 Florida - 2; No. 6 Michigan - 1
A three-player pitcher's duel gave the USF Softball Stadium capacity crowd all of the excitement they could handle in a game and more as the contest between two top 10 ranked programs went toe-to-toe for 10 total innings.
The combination of sophomore Kelly Barnhill and senior Delanie Gourley (2-0) gave Florida the depth and the edge to defeat Michigan's Megan Betsa. Barnhill tossed seven full innings before she handed the ball off to Gourley who tossed the remaining three; Betsa tossed all 10 for the Wolverines as she threw 190 pitches on the day.
Florida took the initial lead in the contest in the fourth inning of play when junior Nicole DeWitt sent through an RBI single up the middle of the Wolverines (2-1) infield to score Aleshia Ocasio.
However, Michigan responded in the bottom of the frame to tie the game on an infield RBI single by Aidan Falk. What most may or may not realize is that redshirt freshman shortstop Sophia Reynoso made a great play deep in the hole between her position and Ocasio at third, which prevented Kelly Christner from scoring a second run.
From that point forward, both teams battled back-and-forth to gain an advantage and Florida eventually took it in the top of the 10th inning on an RBI single into shallow center field. The hit scored DeWitt, who was placed on second at the beginning of the inning, and nearly plated Kayli Kvistad. Kvistad was called out on a bang-bang play at home on the throw from center field.
No. 4 Florida - 5; St. John's - 2
Against St. John's (0-1), sophomore Amanda Lorenz struck first with a two-run home run in the bottom of the first inning to score senior leadoff batter Justine McLean and put Florida ahead 2-0.
Aleshia Ocasio (1-0) and the Gators defense worked through the Red Storm's lineup only to give up a hit through the first four innings of play. However, St. John's railed in the fifth to post a pair of hits and two runs, which came when Gretchen Bowie hit an RBI single through the infield to score Marissa Rizzi while Hannah Anderson scored on the same play as she was awarded home plate after an interference call as she rounded third base.
The pressure was on until Ocasio stepped to the plate in the bottom of the sixth inning. With Chelsea Herndon and Sophia Reynoso on base, the 2016 NFCA First Team All-American belted a three-run home run on a full-count to extend the Gators lead to 5-2. Ocasio finished the complete-game effort as she retired the Red Storm side in order.
On fighting through adversity in two tough games:
"I mean when you face two good pitchers that are mature, have been around the block and pitched well their entire careers. I thought both pitchers and both of our opponents made pretty good adjustments. We made some adjustments too and put good solid contact on the ball in a couple of situations but we still have to improve our overall mindset and not get too caught up in trying to do too many things or trying to do too much."
• The Gators won their third consecutive game against the Wolverines and now lead the all-time series 10-9 and have won 10 out of the last 12 meetings.
• It was the third overall meeting between Florida and St. John's. o UF improved to 3-0 with the last two meetings occurring on Feb. 19, 2002
• Amanda Lorenz and Aleshia Ocasio both hit their first home runs of the season.
• Justine McLean tied her career-high with three hits in the contest against St. John's.
o Previous career-high occurred on March 15, 2015 against USF.
• This is the first win in an extra inning game since a 3-1 decision against Mississippi State on April 24, 2016.
o The Gators improve to 78-34 in extra-inning games and 5-4 in 10 inning contests.
o Only the second extra-inning game between the Wolverines: UF won 9-4 (8 innings) on Feb. 8, 2014 in Tampa..