Tim Walton was hoping for some home cooking in the NCAA Gainesville Regional this weekend.
But he also knew his players needed to provide some of the juice.
The Gators did just that with a run-rule win over Boise State 8-0 Saturday in a game that featured a combined no-hitter for two UF pitchers.
“I’m just happy we’ve played a lot better and been more fun to watch, given our fans energy to cheer us on,” Walton said. “I’ve talked to our team about it that our home-field advantage hasn’t been that this year because we haven’t been very fun to watch. I think we’ve been better the last couple of days.”
The Gators (46-15) will be back at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium on Sunday with a chance to clinch the regional and advance to a home series in the Super Regionals.
Florida will again play Boise State (36-15), which survived Saturday night loser’s bracket, at noon Sunday.
A day after a slow start at the plate, the Gators put this one away early, knocking Boise State starting pitcher Gianna Mancha (12-8) out after eight batters.
Mancha walked five of the first six batters she faced and trailed 1-0 before Jade Caraway looped single to left to score a pair of runners. Caraway, a transfer from N.C. State, was in a walking boot Thursday as a precaution after spraining an ankle against Alabama at the SEC Tournament.
On Saturday, she had two hits and knocked in three runs.
“It feels good,” Caraway said. “I just wanted to come through for my team, stay within myself. I’m a pretty free swinger. I don’t take a lot of pitches.”
Light-hitting third baseman Hannah Sipos followed with a single to score another run and Alex Voss greeted new pitcher Veronica Lynch with an infield hit to make it 5-0.
Amanda Lorenz capped the scoring in the inning with an RBI single. It was the fourth consecutive hit for the Gators.
In all, the bottom four players in the batting order knocked in six runs in the game.
“The biggest hit to me was Hannah Sipos finding a way to get a hit,” Walton said. “That was the biggest moment to me.”
UF added two runs in the second as red-hot Hannah Adams led off with a double off the glove of the third baseman and scored on a two-out single by Jaimie Hoover. Hoover made it all the way to third on a throwing error and scored on Caraway’s infield hit.
“Our whole team has talked about what happened in the regular season doesn’t matter and focus on every at-bat,” said Adams, who has 10 hits in her last seven games. “That’s what I’ve tried to do.”
Once UF starter Kelly Barnhill breezed through her second scoreless inning, Walton felt comfortable giving her a rest. Sophomore Natalie Lugo came in and retired all nine batters she faced.
“Six (runs) was probably about exactly where I thought, ‘OK, we have an opportunity to get someone else in the game and get her out of the competitive circle, get her off her feet,” Walton said. “She’s been out there for quite a few games in a row.
“The player of the game to me was Natalie, coming in to — h-hum — throw three perfect innings.”
Lugo got the win to go to 8-3. It was her first-ever NCAA appearance.
“I tried not to focus on the fact that it was the postseason,” she said. “I tried not to tell myself there’s a no-hitter the same way you say it out loud to jinx it.”
NCAA Gainesville Regional
At Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium
Boise State 9, Stanford 1
Florida 3, Boston University 0
Florida 8, Boise State 0, 5 innings
Stanford 13, Boston 2, Boston eliminated
Boise State 2, Stanford 0, Stanford eliminated
Florida (46-15) vs. Boise State (36-15), Noon
x-Game 7 — If necessary game, 2:30 p.m.
TV: ESPN family of networks
Radio: 92.1-FM, 1230-AM