GAINESVILLE, Fla. - The No. 1-ranked University of Florida softball team took the field at Katie Seashole Pressly for the first time of the 2017 season on Friday, Feb. 17 and came away with a pair of victories over Florida A&M and Northwestern State in the final two games on day one of the Aquafina Invitational.
Florida (8-0) dispatched Florida A&M (0-7) 8-1 in their first game then capped off the day with a 9-3 victory over Northwestern State (4-3).
The Gators received a combined effort in the circle from sophomore Kelly Barnhill (2-0) and freshman Katie Chronister (1) to hold the Rattlers to a single run on five hits in the contest. Barnhill tossed four-complete innings and allowed only three hits and walk compared to 11 total strikeouts. Chronister relieved her before the start of the fifth inning, which allowed her to receive the save for three quality innings of work.
Junior Kayli Kvistad opened up the scoring in the first inning with her RBI single to Nachelle Watson at first base. Senior Justine McLean scored on the play and Kvistad was safe due to the indecision of Watson on the hit down the line.
From there the Gators went on to score five more unanswered runs to open up a 6-0 lead over the Rattlers. FAMU posted their only run of the contest on a wild pitch from Chronister. Freshman Jaimie Hoover, 1-for-2 at the plate, pushed across her second RBI of the day with her second bases loaded walk. She drove in a total of three runs in which the third came in the sixth inning on an infield single to the FAMU shortstop.
In the second game of the day, Kayli Kvistad broke open the scoring in the initial inning with a two-run home run down the right field line that scored sophomore Amanda Lorenz. Lorenz reached in the previous at-bat via a walk.
The Gators tacked on a run in the fourth thanks to an RBI double to center field by sophomore Sophia Reynoso; Aleshia Ocasio scored on the play after she reached on a single to right field.
The Lady Demons threatened in the fifth inning of play and eventually tied the game 3-3 five straight hits. Ocasio had retired 12-straight Northwestern State batters prior to the surge, which prompted the call to the bullpen for senior Delanie Gourley.
Northwestern managed to tie the game 3-3 but that didn't last long as Florida reached base safely through five consecutive batters and eventually extended the lead back out to 9-3.
The Gators return to action on day two of the Aquafina Invitational Saturday, Feb. 18 at 11:15 a.m. against Maryland and 1:30 p.m. in a rematch with Northwestern State.
Feeling to come back and play at home: "I loved the way the new uniforms looked, that whole look was pretty sharp. The crowd was awesome, that's part of the deal too. You want to play awesome in front of a crowd like that. There was a lot of people here for the home opener. A schedule change, you get to see it about 6=6:30, I looked up and its packed everywhere. I am just thankful that we have people that take a lot of pride in coming out and watching us play."
On group effort: "When you look at our lineup we have a lot of players that play nice complimentary roles to each other. The whole goal is to have the number two hitter feed off the one, the three feeding off the two, protecting the two, the three feeding off the four, the four protecting the three. That's just how you like to keep everything going. I thought Kayli did a lot better today than she has, caught a few more pitches to hit today than she has. The top lineup can just continue to get on base at a high clip. The bottom of the lineup is just producing it, they did a good job, look at what Jamie Hoover and everyone else has done. It is nice to be able to have a group effort and a complimentary job from all of them."
Gators posted a season-high 13 hits against the Rattlers Barnhill faced 16 batters allowed three hits and one walk with 11 strikeouts in the game. Relieved by freshman Katie Chronister in the top of the fifth who received her first collegiate save. DeWitt's three stolen bases are a new career-high for the junior. The three runs scored ties her career-high (3 vs. Jacksonville State on Feb. 21, 2016) Previous career-high was two stolen bases recorded against South Carolina on May 7, 2015. Recorded first at-bat of the game in her fourth plate appearance. Scored as a triple to right center gap, which was her first triple of the season. Kvistad records her first home run of the season with a two-run home run down the right field line. Lorenz scored on the play.