Special to GC
Fullerton, Calif. – The No. 1-ranked University of Florida softball team equaled the best start to a season in school history with two wins on Thursday at the Judi Garman Classic, extending UF’s record to 24-0 on the year. The Gators came from behind to defeat No. 3/2 Michigan, 7-4, in Game 1 before earning a 9-0 (5 innings) victory over San Jose State in the second contest. Aleshia Ocasio improved to 8-0 in 2015 with four scoreless innings of relief work against the Wolverines, while Lauren Haeger earned her tenth win of the season in the run-rule win over SJSU.
Michigan took a 2-0 lead in the top of the first inning in Game 1 as a leadoff single set up a two-run home run with one out. A two-run double in the third extend the Wolverines’ lead to four.
The Gators fought back in the home half of the frame with three runs. Florida loaded the bases on a Kelsey Stewart single, a fielder’s choice by Lauren Haeger and a hit-by-pitch from Bailey Castro. Back-to-back RBI singles by Taylore Fuller and Briana Little scored Stewart and Haeger before Taylor Schwarz was hit by a pitch to force in Castro.
After Ocasio relieved starter Delanie Gourley to begin the fourth inning, the Orange and Blue tied the game in the fifth when Castro drew a one-out walk and pinch-runner Justine McLean scored from first on an RBI double by Little. UF took a 7-4 lead in the following inning when Kathlyn Medina walked and Aubree Munro reached on a Wolverine fielding error to set up a two-run double by Stewart. The 2014 All-American made a heads-up play to score on the next play when Kirsti Merritt beat out a bunt single, extending the Gator advantage to three and producing the final margin.
Florida got on the board quickly in Game 2 against the Spartans as Stewart led off with a walk before coming home on an RBI single by Castro. The Orange and Blue added three more runs in the third on an RBI groundout by Fuller and a two-run double to left field by Janell Wheaton.
Another three-spot went up for the Gators in the fourth thanks to two more run-scoring two-baggers, a two-run double from Haeger to right-center and an RBI double from Kayli Kvistad to left-center. In the fifth and final inning, Stewart led off with a two-base hit to left, setting up a walkoff home run to right-center from Merritt that sealed the 9-0 mercy-rule victory.
STARS OF THE GAMES
* Kelsey Stewart: The Wichita, Kan., native drove in the game-winning runs against Michigan with her two-RBI double in the sixth inning. Stewart added a second two-base hit in Game 2, when she scored three times and stole two bases.
* Aleshia Ocasio: The freshman held the Wolverine offense scoreless for the final four innings, allowing two hits with no walks and a pair of strikeouts.
* Briana Little: The senior drove in the tying run in the opening contest with her fifth-inning double, part of a game that marked her second multi-hit and multi-RBI efforts this season.
* With the doubleheader sweep, Florida extended its season-opening win streak to 24 games; this ties the 2011 squad for the longest run of victories to start a campaign in program history.
* Florida earned its fifth straight win against Michigan dating back to Feb. 25, 2009.
* Since Tim Walton became the Gators’ head coach before the 2006 season, UF is 6-1 against the Wolverines.
* The victory over UM is Florida’s third comeback win of the year.
* UF owns two wins over top-five teams in its first 24 games (also: Feb. 27 vs. No. 2 Oregon).
* Stewart had two hits in each game, giving her a team-best seven multi-hit contests on the year.
* Ocasio earned her second win over Michigan in less than a month; the right-hander also picked up the victory on Feb. 7 in Tampa, Fla., at the USF Softball Classic.
* Haeger’s two RBI against the Spartans marked her UF-leading eighth multi-RBI game this season.
* The nightcap marked the first-ever meeting between Florida and San Jose State.
On the win against Michigan:
“I thought they were on Delanie a bit today. A good hitting club like Michigan, they’ve seen all kinds of pitchers and all kinds of things – they’ve been on the road a long time. The big key was I felt like they were able to hit her where the pitch was pitched. Delanie got some key strikeouts to keep that game close and manageable, but I felt like we needed to change that up once we got some momentum back. Still being down 4-3, we needed to change it up a little bit and give them a different look.”
On the adjustments UF’s hitters made against the Wolverines:
“There were some really good at-bats, [like] Aubree Munro getting hit by a pitch to lead off the third inning. Just little things – we took some walks, we got some base hits, we got an infield base hit, we got a ball hit up the middle – little things. The adjustment for us is we’ve faced [Michigan pitcher] Haylie [Wagner] before. She was sawing us off, getting in on our hands. We went to a wholesale adjustment. We weren’t looking for any one pitch, but her curveball is so good, you almost have to go up there and anticipate that that pitch is going to be the one coming. If we’re going to beat her, then [we need to] make her throw her secondary stuff to get us out. I thought we did a good job of hitting the ball where it was pitched.”
On how the win over SJSU prepares Florida for Friday’s games:
“The beauty of what we’ve been doing is, no matter what team goes out there or what lineup goes in, we’ve been doing a good job of just playing the game. Not worrying about who we play. I was happy. Lauren was out the pumping zeros [and] throwing strikes. The defense was good behind her – Kirsti made another nice catch. The offense was really productive – we had a couple weak outs, but we scored a run, moved runners into scoring position and got another hit. All in all, today the productive at-bats were plus-nine, hit-by-pitch and walks over strikeouts, plus the number of hits we had. It was a really productive day. I thought all our hitters did a good job fighting, no matter who they were.”
- Florida Head Coach Tim Walton
Florida continues play at the Judi Garman Classic on Friday with games against No. 13/12 Arizona (1 p.m. – all times Eastern) and No. 2/3 Oregon (6 p.m.) WGGG (1230-AM)<http://www.floridasportstalk.fm/> will have the radio broadcast with Corey Brooks (play-by-play) and Megan Bush (analysis) on the call. In addition, live stats links for select games can be found on the schedule page<http://www.gatorzone.com/schedule.php?sport=softb> on GatorZone.com.