Florida Gators softball defeats #15 UCF 2-1

Special to GC

Gainesville, Fla. – The No. 1-ranked University of Florida softball team defeated in-state rival UCF, 2-1, on Wednesday to close out a perfect 11-game homestand and run its season-opening winning streak to 17 games.

Gator freshman Aleshia Ocasio pitched her fourth complete game to improve to 5-0 on the year, yielding one earned run on three hits with no walks and eight strikeouts. The Orange and Blue took advantage of a key UCF error to produce their first run, and the Gators minimized the damage from their own miscues to earn the victory.

Kirsti Merritt led off the bottom of the third with a double before advancing home on two illegal pitches to give Florida a 1-0 lead. That frame was extended only after a UCF fielder dropped a foul ball that would have been the third out.

During the fourth, Ocasio worked around a one-out fielding error and got some help from her catcher as Aubree Munro threw out the Knight baserunner to end the inning. Taylor Schwarz was hit by a pitch from her former high school teammate Shelby Turnier in the bottom of the inning, leading to an RBI single from Kelsey Stewart three batters later that raised the UF advantage to two.

The 15th-ranked Knights cut the lead to 2-1 with a one-out solo home run to left-center field with one out in the seventh, but Ocasio stifled the late rally by inducing a groundout and then sealing the one-run win with a swinging strikeout.


* Aleshia Ocasio: The first-year right-hander issued no free passes for the third time in her five outings of 4.0+ innings this season. The St. Cloud, Fla., native also recorded eight or more whiffs for the third time.

* Kirsti Merritt: Florida’s junior center fielder put pressure on the UCF pitcher and defense with her two-base hit to start the third inning, leading to the first run of the game.

* Kelsey Stewart: The 2014 All-American made the Knights pay for hitting Schwarz in the fourth, driving in the first baseman to produce the game-winning run.



* Merritt was hit by a pitch for the fourth consecutive game and the seventh time in eight games.

* The Lake Panasoffkee, Fla., native now holds a .555 (5×9) career average in four games against UCF.

* The junior has been hit 11 times this season, which is more than double the next closest Gator’s total. (Castro, Fuller – 5)

* The center fielder’s third-inning double was her third of the season, tying Schwarz for second on the team. (Stewart leads with 4.)

* Schwarz has scored seven runs in the last three games after she crossed home plate three times in each game of Sunday’s doubleheader against Mercer.

* UF committed two errors, but overcame both to keep the Knights scoreless; the lone error against UCF proved costly as the Gators gained a run.

* Florida has committed more errors than its opponent six times this year, but the Gators have won all six games.

* The Orange and Blue increased its lead in the all-time series with UCF to 16-3. This includes a 10-2 record in Gainesville and a 12-2 mark under Head Coach Tim Walton.

* UF has held the Knights to just three runs total in four meetings in Gainesville since the start of 2012.



On Florida’s execution to capitalize on UCF’s miscues and limit its own:

“It’s just players making plays. With the miscues we made, we didn’t snowball them into more miscues. Ultimately, that’s the biggest key – you can’t let that snowball. You can make mistakes. That was the biggest key – we didn’t let it snowball.”


On Ocasio’s ability to hold the Knights to one run on a night when offense was limited:

“You can tell by the number of bunt attempts that I had that that was my anticipation – a low-scoring game. Whether it was 1-0, 2-1 or 3-2, I felt like that was the kind of stuff both pitchers were showing.”


On what the Gators will learn about themselves during their trip to California:

“The big key is it’s going to prepare us for Southeastern Conference softball. We’re playing a great schedule – I’m excited about the next 11 games. They’re all on the road in front of a lot of people’s families who have never seen them play softball live, or are getting to see them play softball live potentially for the last time in their careers. It’s a long trip, but it also can be a fun trip, going out there and spending time together.”

– Florida Head Coach Tim Walton

Junior OF Kirsti Merritt
On Aleshia Ocasio’s pitching:
“She’s meant a lot. She’s been doing really good things [and] she’s had a lot of strikeouts. I think she’s doing really [well] in locating her pitches. We really need her, and she’s came through for us.”

On being hit by a pitch 11 times this season:
“It never gets old. We love hit-by-pitches. I have no idea how it’s happening, but it’s happening. Coach loves it. We have this deal with Coach where if we get hit by a pitch, we get a Reese’s Big Cup on the road; if we jump out of the way, Coach gets one. So I’ve got 11 Big Cups for the road.”

On looking ahead to playing in California:
“The competition in California is going to be really good. I expect really good pitching and some good defense. We’re starting to get down to the nitty-gritty.”

Freshman UT Aleshia Ocasio
On the home run UCF hit against her:
“Home runs happen. It was my job to just deliver hope to my team, stay calm and just get more outs and bounce back, so I did.”

On looking ahead to playing in California:
“I’m ready. UCF was a good team so I think it was a good warm-up. Having good momentum going into tougher games, I think this was good.”

Junior 2B Kelsey Stewart
On her night at the plate:
“I was just trying to make solid contact, score a run. I really didn’t make my adjustments as well as I should have in the first two at-bats, so I had a talk with Coach and some of the other girls in the dugout and made better adjustments.”

On getting a win over a ranked opponent:
“I think it’s really a confidence boost just knowing we can beat ranked opponents, and also [UCF’s Shelby Turnier] is a really good pitcher. [It’s about] knowing that we can make adjustments every inning and get better every inning.”

On looking ahead to playing in California:
“It’s great competition. From Friday all the way to next Saturday, [we will be] really working together as a team.”

Florida will travel to California for the San Diego Classic I, which begins a nine-day, 11-game California road trip. The tournament begins Friday, when the top-ranked Gators will meet No. 2 Oregon at 2:30 p.m. (all times Eastern) before a matchup with Cal Poly at 5:00 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.

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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.