No. 1 Gators too much for Alabama State to open NCAA Regional


Florida Gators batter Nicole DeWitt connects for an RBI triple that scored three runs in the third inning against the Alabama State Hornets during the first game of the NCAA Softball tournament on Friday in Gainesville.

Matt Stamey/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Friday, May 20, 2016 at 6:08 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, May 20, 2016 at 7:22 p.m.

Florida's bats woke up cranky on a humid Friday afternoon.

After scoring only two runs in two SEC Tournament games last week and being shut out in the first two innings Friday by fourth-seeded Alabama State, the Gators scored nine runs in the third inning and went on to win their NCAA Tournament opener 11-0 in five innings.

“We hit to all fields, did the things we had talked about doing,” said Florida coach Tim Walton. “I told the team, we came out with a good game plan, good calmness at the plate, good balance.”

No. 1 Florida (54-5) will face Central Florida (37-20) today at noon in the winner's bracket game.

The big hit in the nine-run third was a bases-loaded triple inside the first-base bag that cleared the bases by sophomore Nicole DeWitt.

“It's always fun stringing hits together,” DeWitt said. “It puts everyone in a good mood.”

Kelsey Stewart had a two-run single, her second hit of the inning, to cap the scoring in the frame.

“We were hitting the ball hard (before),” Stewart said. “We just weren't getting hits. It's refreshing, I think.”

The inning started with Taylore Fuller coaxing a walk, then unraveled for Alabama State. Amanda Lorenz singled in the first run and another scored two batters later when Kirsti Merritt was hit by a pitch.

DeWitt's triple made it 5-0 and Janell Wheaton singled in another run. Fuller doubled home a run on her second at-bat of the inning before Stewart's single made it 9-0.

“We played a lot like ourselves today,” said Walton.

The Gators added two more runs in the fourth with a Wheaton double being the big hit and after the inning Alabama State coach Chris Steiner-Wilcoxson gathered her team together for an animated discussion.

“I know it's our first time (in the NCAA Tournament), but we were so tense, so tight,” Steiner-Wilcoxson said. “You can't play scared at this level.”

But it appeared that's exactly what happened, as the Hornets managed only one hit and struck out 10 times.

“We were more intimidated than we should have been,” said designated player Charlene Castro, who had the lone hit.

Aleshia Ocasio allowed only that one hit in four innings, running her record to 21-1. Freshman Kelly Barnhill pitched the final inning, walking the leadoff batter before striking out the next three.

Third-seeded UCF remained in the winner's bracket with a 1-0 win over No. 2 seed Florida Atlantic (50-8) after a one-hour rain delay. The only run was scored on a homer by Jasmine Acevedo in the fifth inning.

Shelby Turnier pitched a two-hit shutout for UCF. FAU pitcher Kyle Hanson allowed six hits.

FAU will face Alabama State (28-26) in an elimination game 30 minutes after the conclusion of the UCF-UF game. Florida will be the visiting team for that game.

Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at pat.dooley@gvillesun.com. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.

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