Timely hitting, strong pitching produce UF wins

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The Florida Gators watch from the dugout during the Gators home game against the Gamecocks. [Lauren Bacho/Gainesville Sun]

Jim Harvin
Correspondent

With two runners on base and one out in a scoreless game in the bottom of the seventh inning, Florida’s Nicole DeWitt was just looking for a pitch she could drive.

She got one, and her resulting, game-winning three-run homer over the center field wall capped off an amazing weekend for the sixth-ranked Gators as they swept the doubleheader and the softball series from No. 11 South Carolina with a 3-0 win Saturday.

“I had a good feeling about it,” DeWitt said of her game-winning blast. “I got a pretty good piece of the ball.”

Earlier in the day, UF (37-7, 12-3) topped the Gamecocks (34-10, 8-7), 7-0, behind ace Kelly Barnhill’s second one-hitter of the weekend, her first coming in a 3-1 win in Friday’s series opener.

Freshman leadoff batter Hannah Adams went 3-for-4 to pace a five-hit UF attack in the series finale after the Gators never trailed in game two, scoring two runs in the second inning, three in the third and two in the fourth en route to the win that clinched the series after winning Friday’s opener, 3-1.

“This weekend was really important in terms of RPI and things of that nature,” said Barnhill, who now stands a sterling 19-1 on the season.

“It was really good to come out and see the team at home. That’s a great feeling because we always get some great home crowds here. It’s a really cool environment to play in.”

In Saturday’s first game, UF starter Aleshia Ocasio (15-5) threw a complete game, two-hit shutout, striking out 10 Gamecocks and retiring the final 14 batters she faced in picking up the win.

South Carolina starter Cayla Drotar (15-4) only made it through 2 2/3 innings and took the loss, while starter Kelsey Oh (10-3) was saddled with the loss in the series finale.


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“We had all week to prepare for this team,” Ocasio said. “It’s not easy to beat them, but with the right preparation we were able to come out here and get some hits, score some runs and win these three games.”

After opening the third inning with back-to-back outs, Janell Wheaton singled, and Jordan Matthews followed by drawing a walk on a 3-2 pitch. Both runners moved up on a wild pitch, and Sophia Reynoso then singled them both home for a 2-0 UF lead.

The Gators opened the third with three straight singles capped by DeWitt’s RBI hit to make it 3-0, and Kayli Kvistad made it 4-0 with a sacrifice fly to center.

Ocasio made it 5-0 with a perfectly placed bunt scoring DeWitt and UF added two more in the fourth when DeWitt was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded and Kvistad singled home Adams for the final margin.

Pitching-wise, the Gators were stellar, with Barnhill and Ocasio combining to throw three complete-game victories and holding the strong-hitting Gamecocks to just four hits in the three wins.

“The pitching was really good,” UF coach Tim Walton said. “Kelly Barnhill came out and pitched really good for two games in a row and Aleshia Ocasio had good stuff with double-digit strikeouts (10). Overall, pitching and defense were really, really good.”

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