DeWitt’s walk-off home run gives Florida Gators softball a sweep

Special report on the Florida Gators softball team:
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – The sixth-ranked Florida softball team secured the series sweep of No. 11 South Carolina with a pair of shutouts, 7-0 & 3-0, at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium Saturday afternoon.

Aleshia Ocasio (15-5) and Kelly Barnhill (19-1) led the Gators (37-7, 12-3 SEC) to the pair of victories with dominant pitching performances. Ocasio allowed only two hits in game one, while Barnhill limited the Gamecocks (34-10, 8-7 SEC) to just one hit in the finale. The pair combined for 18 strikeouts on the day.

Senior Nicole DeWitt secured the series sweep with a walk-off three-run home run in the bottom of the seventh inning of game two. It was the 10th home run of the season for the Garden Grove, Calif. native.

GAME ONE | W, 7-0

Ocasio was brilliant in the circle for the first game of the doubleheader against the Gamecocks. The St. Cloud, Fla. native tallied 10 strikeouts and limited the opposing offense to just a pair of hits in the effort.

South Carolina threatened with its best chance to break onto the scoreboard in the second. The Gamecocks loaded the bases with two outs, but Ocasio worked out of the jam with the strikeout of pinch-hitter Alyssa Kumiyama.

Jordan Roberts put Florida out in front 2-0 in the bottom of the second inning with a two-out single to left center field. The rally started when Janell Wheaton sent a single through the left side of the Gamecocks infield while Jordan Matthews followed up with a full-count walk.

The duo advanced to second and third on a wild pitch from Cayla Drotar (15-4) before being brought home by Roberts.

Florida strung together four hits and scored three runs in the third to extend its lead out to 5-0. Hannah Adams and Amanda Lorenz produced back-to-back singles to put runners on the corners. DeWitt then blistered an RBI single up the middle to score Adams and move Lorenz to third, while Kvistad produced a sacrifice fly in the next at-bat.

Ocasio capped the scoring with a SAC bunt down the third base line that scored DeWitt.

The Gators plated a pair of runs in the fourth to round out the scoring in game one.

With the bases loaded, DeWitt plated Reynoso after she was hit by the 1-1 pitch from reliever Dixie Raley. Kvistad scored Adams with a single to shallow right field for the final run, which pushed the lead out 7-0.

GAME TWO | W, 3-0

The second game of the day developed into a pitcher’s duel between Barnhill and South Carolina Starting pitcher Kelsey Oh (10-3). The pair battled for six innings, but Oh finally succumbed when DeWitt tallied her second walk-off home run of the season.

With one out, the Gators picked up a single from Adams and a walk from Lorenz to put the winning run into scoring position for Dewitt.

After fouling out twice and being hit by Oh during her most recent at-bat, DeWitt connected on the 3-2 pitch and sent it over the center field wall to secure the victory and the Sweep.

DeWitt might have had the heroic hit in the game, but freshman Adams turned in one of her best games at the plate after she went 3-for-4 as the leadoff batter for the Gators.

Next up for Florida is a solo midweek contest against Florida A&M Wednesday, April 18, at 6 p.m.

Walton’s Words

On the pitching performances…

“Aleshia really set the tone for us. She pitched one of the best ball games she’s pitched in a while. I was really proud of the energy she provided in the circle. Kelly obviously did a great job as well. It’s hard to one-hit somebody after you face them the other night, and then she did it again today. So I was really proud of her being able to locate her pitches a lot better today.”

On DeWitt’s walk-off homerun…

“I didn’t think she caught it all. I knew she caught it pretty good, but I’m proud of Nicole. The career that she has had, she probably flies under the radar more than anybody we’ve ever had. She’s somebody in my opinion who has been very consistent. She’s a gamer. She’s got so much savvy and her ability to understand and recognize the game. It’s going to be tough to replace her. Not only with the walk-off homerun, but it’s going to be tough to replace someone like her, who really and truly knows the game. She’s a coach on the field.”

On the yellow game…

“I think the first engagement that I had (with pediatric cancer) was with Heather Braswell, and the relationship we were able to build as she was going through life recovering from that disease. Then I met Ian Lockwood. He’s a great kid, full of energy, former football guy for the gators. He was awesome. Now we bring William in, and more than anything it’s for William. I just wanted William to know that there’s a team full of competitors that has his back and I’m really proud that he shared his day with us. Obviously he’s not at his best and not at 100 percent, but hopefully these last stages of treatment will get him on the right track.”

From the Players

Aleshia Ocasio

On her pitching performance today…

“I had the mentality that I was going to go in there and give it my all, because lately I haven’t been doing that well. So I was just trying to work location, trying not to give them any free passes. I was just really working on hitting my spots and making my pitches move.”

Nicole DeWitt

On her walk-off homerun…

“It was pretty exciting. I wasn’t trying to do too much with it obviously. I was just trying to keep it simple and thankfully the ball went out. I had a good feeling about it.”

Kelly Barnhill

On her effort today…

“This weekend was really important in terms of RPI and things of that nature. So it was really good to come out and sweep a team at home. That’s always a great feeling. Especially since we always get a great home crowd here. It’s always a really cool environment to play in.”

Notable Notes

· The Gators pushed the all-time series lead out to 48-20 over South Carolina with the series sweep.
o It’s the third SEC series sweep of the season for Florida.
· Florida currently leads the country with 25 shutouts on the year.
· Ocasio produced her second outing of the year with 10 or more strikeouts in a game.
o The St. Cloud native struck out the side in the second and third innings and has now struck out the side eight times on the year.
· Barnhill struck out the side in the fifth inning. It’s the 23rd time this season that she has struck out the side.
o Her one-hitter in game two is the second one-hitter of the series and her third of the season.
· Kvistad’s SAC fly in game one was the 11th of her career and tied her for second all-time at Florida with Kelsey Bruder (2008-11) & Francesca Enea (2007-2010).
o Megan Bush (2008-11) holds the Florida record with 21 SAC flies.
· The Gators lead the nation in walks with 229 on the year.
o UF drew two in game one of the doubleheader and six in game two.
o Amanda Lorenz leads the team with 41 walks drawn on the season.
· Florida improved to 33-2 on the season when scoring first and 24-1 at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium.
· Amanda Lorenz has reached base in every game of this season, and she has reached base 168 out of the 175 games played during her career.
· Hannah Adams finished the doubleheader going 5-for-8 at the plate and scoring three runs.

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Andrew Spivey
Andrew always knew he wanted to be involved with sports in some capacity. He began by coaching high school football for six years before deciding to pursue a career in journalism. While coaching, he was a part of two state semifinal teams in the state of Alabama. Given his past coaching experience, he figured covering recruiting would be a perfect fit. He began his career as an intern for Rivals.com, covering University of Florida football recruiting. After interning with Rivals for six months, he joined the Gator Country family as a recruiting analyst. Andrew enjoys spending his free time on the golf course and watching his beloved Atlanta Braves. Follow him on Twitter at @AndrewSpiveyGC.