Special to GC
Gainesville, Fla. – Freshman pitcher Aleshia Ocasio tied a school record with 17 strikeouts as the No. 1-seeded University of Florida softball team won its NCAA Tournament opener, 6-0, over Florida A&M on Friday night at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium. The right-hander dominated the Rattlers, allowing just one hit and one walk in a complete-game effort while facing one batter over the minimum. Kelsey Stewart tripled down the right-field line to lead off the bottom of the first for Florida, coming home with the game’s first run when Nicole DeWitt doubled into the gap in left-center. The freshman later scored from third on a two-out Rattler error. Two innings later, Kirsti Merritt started the third with a single to left, advancing to second on a Bailey Castro groundout and then scoring from second with heads-up baserunning when Lauren Haeger grounded out. Ocasio helped her own cause with a single in the fourth, scoring two batters later on a Stewart groundout. The Gators (51-6) added to their lead in the following frame. Haeger reached on a fielder’s choice with one out and pinch-runner Francesca Martinez advanced from first to third on a passed ball before coming home on Taylore Fuller’s sacrifice fly. After the Rattlers (18-38) logged their only hit of the night on a bloop single in the sixth, which also was their only ball hit out of the infield, Florida scored a run for the fourth consecutive inning when Merritt drew a bases-loaded walk to raise the Gator lead to 6-0. The free pass completed the scoring for the night as Ocasio (17-3) struck out the side in the seventh to tie the school record. STARS OF THE GAME · Aleshia Ocasio: The freshman delivered an historic performance in her NCAA Tournament debut. · Kelsey Stewart: The SEC Player of the Year tied her own school record with her 10th triple of the season (also: 2013). · Nicole DeWitt: Playing in the NCAA Tournament for the first time, the California native opened the scoring with an RBI double in the first. NOTABLES · Ocasio tied the school record with 17 strikeouts in a game (also: Renise Landry, Feb. 20, 2000, vs. Samford – eight innings). · The 17 strikeouts are the most ever by a Gator pitcher in a seven-inning game. · The freshman’s performance marked the first time a Gator pitcher recorded 15+ strikeouts in a regulation game since Jenny Gladding had 15 against Nebraska on Feb. 21, 2004. · Florida’s first-year pitcher fanned at least two batters in six of the seven innings, striking out the side four times. · The St. Cloud, Fla., native now has 152 whiffs on the season, which is the third-highest total ever for a Florida freshman. · Ocasio’s 17 wins also stand third among first-year Gators. · Every batter in the Florida A&M lineup struck out at least once against the Florida right-hander. · A UF freshman shut out the Rattlers in the first game of an NCAA Regional for the second consecutive season, following Delanie Gourley’s no-hitter in 2014. · Stewart’s three-base hit was her 26th career triple, extending her program benchmark. · The Wichita, Kan., native had her team-leading eighth game with three or more hits. · Fuller had 14 putouts, tying her career-high (also: 2/14 vs. NC State). UP NEXT Florida will face Hofstra on Saturday at 1 p.m. ET. Live video of the game will be available on ESPN3<http://espn.go.com/watchespn/>, with Jonathan Yardley (play-by-play) and former Arizona All-American Jenny Dalton-Hill (analysis) on the call. Florida Sports Talk will have the radio broadcast with Adam Schick (play-by-play) and former Gator All-American Megan Bush (analysis) as the announce team. In addition, live stats will be available through GameTracker on the schedule page<http://www.gatorzone.com/schedule.php?sport=softb> of GatorZone.com.