Special to Gatorsports.com
COLUMBIA, Missouri — Nicole DeWitt hit back-to-back home runs Friday to power No. 4 Florida to a 10-2 win over No. 8 Tennessee in five innings and into the SEC softball tournament championship game.
The top-seeded Gators (49-8), the SEC regular-season champions, will play third seed South Carolina (45-13), a 3-1 winner over Arkansas in Friday’s other semifinal, at 8 p.m. Saturday (ESPN2) for the tourney championship.
Florida had only four hits against Tennessee, but took advantage of nine walks.
“Nicole DeWitt obviously had a great day,” UF coach Tim Walton said. “We were very disciplined at the plate and had a lot of hitters doing good things.
“Real proud of our team’s fight today.”
DeWitt put UF up 2-0 in the bottom of the first inning after Amanda Lorenz walked with a two-run homer. Janell Wheaton hit a RBI single later in the inning to put the Gators up 3-0.
Florida then put a four spot on the scoreboard in the second inning thanks to DeWitt’s three-run home run (13th of season) and Wheaton’s run-scoring double. It’s DeWitt’s first multi-homer game, with her career-high five RBIs tying an SEC Tournament record.
Four seed Tennessee (45-12) cut into Florida’s lead when Ashley Morgan hit a two-run double in the third inning.
Wheaton drove in her third run of the game with a RBI groundout in the fourth for an 8-2 Florida advantage.
Hannah Adams belted a RBI double in the gap for a 9-2 lead in the fifth. Jordan Matthews then ended it via the run rule with a RBI single later in the frame.
After being staked to the big lead, UF pitcher Kelly Barnhill (26-1) pretty much cruised, while UT pitchers Matty Moss (17-6) and Caylan Arnold struggled with control and were roughed up. Barnhill scattered five hits, walked two and struck out nine.
Notes: UF is playing in its seventh SEC championship game … Barnhill’s record is the best in Division I softball … Senior Kayli Kvistad walked three times in the game to become Florida’s career walks leader with 176.