TALLAHASSEE — Florida softball coach Tim Walton said he knew April was going to be a challenging month for his team.
After falling at UCF to start the month, the Gators had righted themselves by taking two of three at No. 15 Alabama in a Saturday-Sunday-Monday series. But No. 6 Florida suffered another loss to an in-state rival on Wednesday night, losing 4-1 to No. 13 Florida State before 2,138 at JoAnne Graf Field.
“I put the schedule together, so I knew what we were going to get,” Walton said. “I told our team, here comes the exciting part of the season. I knew exactly what we were getting into, and we’re 2-3 since I said that. I don’t think we’ve responded the way I want us to respond, but we’re playing against regional and postseason-type teams.”
The Gators (34-7) were unable to solve FSU graduate transfer Kylee Hanson (20-3), who held UF to one run on two hits over seven innings to earn the win. Hanson, a former second-team All-American at Florida Atlantic in 2016, walked five and struck out five in 109 pitches.
Florida’s lone run came on an RBI double by senior first baseman Kayli Kvistad in the third inning.
“Our lineup is not super deep right now,” Walton said. “We’ve just got to do a better job of being able to hit from really four on, just being able to do a good job of not being able to just turn the lineup over, but protect the lineup. But again, you’re not going to make too much out of it, that’s three of our last four games facing All-American pitching. That’s what All-American pitching looks like.”
Senior Aleshia Ocasio (14-5) took the loss for the Gators, allowing four runs and five hits in five innings pitched. Ocasio walked two and struck out eight. Walton turned to Ocasio after junior Kelly Barnhill threw a combined 258 pitches in two starts over the weekend at Alabama.
“She pitched OK, a lot of strikeouts against a good hitting team,” Walton said. “I think at the end of the day, I’d have to go back to the film, but location is the key. If she can’t locate her pitches, she changes speeds well, but if she throws the ball over the plate, which I’m assuming she did, she’s going to have to do a better job.”
Ocasio surrendered a home run to the second batter she faced, as FSU first baseman Carsyn Gordon launched a 1-1 pitch over the center field fence to give the Seminoles an early 1-0, first-inning lead.
From there, Ocasio settled down, retiring the next eight batters she faced. Florida came back to tie the score at 1 in the third. Catcher Jordan Roberts led off the inning with a walk, moved to second on a sacrifice by Ocasio and scored on an RBI double by Kvistad, a former Columbia High standout. Kvistad was batting leadoff for the first time in her career.
“Anywhere you are in the lineup is kind of the same,” Kvistad said. “It’s the same as people getting out and leading off the next inning, so, I didn’t feel any different. Just trying to find a lineup we can score runs in.”
But Florida was unable to rally more runs in the third. FSU (34-7) regained the lead with a run in the fourth. Gordon led off the inning with a walk, moved to second on a single by third baseman Jessie Warren and scored on an RBI single by Zoe Casas, putting FSU up 2-1.
Ocasio was able to work out of a bases loaded jam in the fourth with a pair of strikeouts, and nearly tied the game in the top of the fifth with a double off the top of the center field wall. Florida got two more walks in the inning to load the bases with two outs, but freshman Jordan Matthews popped out to end the inning.
FSU then broke the game open with two runs in the fifth off Ocasio on an RBI triple by Cali Harrod and an RBI groundout by Gordon.
After five straight road games, Florida will look to regain some momentum this weekend at home against South Carolina. The three-game SEC series with the Gamecocks will begin Friday at 6 p.m.
“We have seven losses right now and that’s the most losses we’ve had this early in April in I can’t even tell you how long,” Walton said. “I didn’t have to tell my team anything. I looked at their faces. They had the same look that I had, that we didn’t come out and compete our best today.”