February 6, 2015,
Special to GC
Tampa, Fla. - The University of Florida softball team began its 2015 season with a 17-0 (5 innings) win over Hampton on Friday at the USF Softball Classic. Five UF players scored multiple runs on the day, while three Gators had at least two hits and four recorded a multi-RBI game.
Right-hander Lauren Haeger (1-0) struck out the side in the top of the first before the Gators had a seven-run outburst in the home half. Following a leadoff groundout, seven straight batters reached base for the Orange and Blue, including singles by Kirsti Merritt and Taylore Fuller and a two-run double from Janell Wheaton. Kelsey Stewart capped the inning with a bases-loaded triple to left-center, giving UF a seven-run cushion after one inning.
Haeger set the Pirates down in order to start the second, and Florida (1-0) used five consecutive one-out hits (including doubles from Bailey Castro, Fuller and Wheaton) to extend its lead to 11-0 and chase Hampton starter Jailynn Jackson. Following a strikeout, Stewart reached on a throwing error before Merritt lined a two-run double down the left-field line.
Florida's senior pitcher had two strikeouts in a 1-2-3 third. Fuller walked to lead off the home half before coming around to score on a hit-by-pitch and two fielder's choices. Pinch-hitter Kayli Kvistad then roped an RBI double to center to score Taylor Schwarz, pushing the Gator advantage to 15 runs.
Aleshia Ocasio made her debut in the circle in the top of the fourth, stranding two runners following a hit batter and a single. After Florida put two runners on base with two singles and a fielder's choice, Hampton (0-3) made a fielding error on Fuller's one-out base hit, allowing two runs to score and raising the Gator lead to 17-0 after four innings.
Delanie Gourley entered in the top of the fifth and set the Pirates down in order to finish UF's season-opening win.
* Florida won its season opener for the ninth consecutive year dating back to 2007.
* UF improved to 18-1 all-time in the season's first game.
* The Gators scored 10+ runs on Opening Day for the fourth time in five seasons and the seventh time in program history.
* Stewart's first-inning triple was the 17th of her career, tying Kim Waleszonia for the Gator all-time record.
* Freshmen DeWitt, Kvistad and Wheaton (2) recorded their first career hits in their UF debuts.
* DeWitt (2), Wheaton (2) and fellow freshman Becca Shipper scored their first Gator runs.
* DeWitt, Kvistad and Wheaton (4) had their first RBI in Orange and Blue.
* Ocasio struck out Hampton's Allyson Babinsack in the fourth for her first career K.
On the season-opening win:
"I thought it was good. Lauren Haeger really set the tempo for us well; [she] came out and had her pitches going. [The] offense turned it over in the first inning and had some really good, solid, quality at-bats."
On the production Florida received from its freshmen in their first career games:
"It's huge. Getting them established early is very important. As a freshman, sophomore, junior or senior, [if you] get it going early, you can build your confidence. It not only helps the days go by easier, but it's easier to come to work every day when you know you're going to get quality at-bats."
On what the Gators need to do Saturday to continue to win:
"Tomorrow we're facing Michigan. We know how good they are up and down their lineup. We know what kind of pitching staff they have. They have a pitching staff like we have - a very quality pitching staff. [They are] a very aggressive team. As I told my team today, we've got to do a good job of focusing on who we are [and] try to win the inning. I think that's going to be our goal, is just to try to figure out how to win every inning."
- Florida Head Coach Tim Walton
Florida continues play at the USF Softball Classic with two games on Saturday. The Gators will face No. 8 Michigan at 1:30 p.m. ET before meeting Illinois State at 3:45. WGGG (1230-AM)<http://www.floridasportstalk.fm/> will have the radio broadcast, with Adam Schick and former Gator All-American Megan Bush on the call. In addition, live stats links can be found on the schedule page<http://www.gatorzone.com/schedule.php?sport=softb> on GatorZone.com.