February 22, 2015,
Gainesville, Fla. – Briana Little’s historic three-homer, nine-RBI game powered the University of Florida softball team to a doubleheader sweep of Mercer on Sunday. The Gators (16-0) totaled 30 runs and 10 home runs in their two wins over the Bears, winning by scores of 20-3 (5 innings) and 10-3.
Kelsey Stewart led off Game 1 with a triple to left-center, and Lauren Haeger got the Gators on the board two batters later with a two-run home run. Bailey Castro followed the homer with a walk and then came home on an RBI double by Taylore Fuller, who was thrown out trying to stretch the hit into a triple. Taylor Schwarz then walked to set up Little’s first homer, a two-run shot that extended the UF lead to five.
Mercer had a run-scoring single in the bottom of the first, cutting the margin to 5-1. Kirsti Merritt was hit by a pitch in the second, then stole second and started a two-out rally when she scored on an RBI single down the left-field line by Castro. With the bases loaded following a walk to Haeger and a hit-by-pitch from Fuller, Little hit a grand slam to left-center to make the score 11-1 in favor of the Gators.
A single by Aleshia Ocasio and a double by Schwarz brought Little to the plate with one out in the third, and the senior outfielder hit her third home run of the day, a towering shot to left that raised the score to 14-1. Florida added six more runs in the fifth, highlighted by a grand slam from Janell Wheaton and a solo shot by Kathlyn Medina.
Mercer scored one run on a single and two on an error in the final frame, producing the deciding margin in Game 1 of the twinbill.
After each team turned a double play in the first inning of Game 2, Kayli Kvistad opened the scoring in the bottom of the second with a solo home run to right-center. Later in the frame, Stewart’s base hit up the middle plated Schwarz
Little reached on an error to lead off the third before Castro walked. That brought up Kvistad, who homered for the second straight inning to push the Florida lead to 5-0. Schwarz singled following the freshman’s second blast, moving up two bases on Aubree Munro’s sacrifice bunt. After Ocasio drew a free pass, Stewart singled to center to score the first baseman.
A leadoff triple in the fourth led to Mercer’s first run of the game. The Bears capitalized on a Florida miscue later in the inning, adding two more tallies on a single to center and cutting the deficit to 6-3. The Orange and Blue loaded the bases in the bottom of the frame, increasing their lead back to four when pinch-runner Francesca Martinez came home on a wild pitch.
Castro drew a leadoff walk in the sixth, and Schwarz hit a two-run home run to left two batters later to make the score 9-3 in favor of Florida. After a foulout, Ocasio cranked a solo shot of her own to the same area, raising the lead to seven and producing the final margin in the Gators’ 10-3 win.
STARS OF THE GAMES
· Briana Little: In her second start of the season, the senior broke out with an historic offensive performance that featured three home runs, four runs scored and nine RBI.
· Kayli Kvistad: The freshman homered in back-to-back innings in Game 2, marking her third and fourth home runs in 25 at-bats this season.
· Taylor Schwarz: The junior scored three runs and drove in one in Game 1, and added a two-run home run in the second contest. UF’s first baseman has reached base in all 15 games she has played in this season.
· Little’s three-homer game was the first in Florida history, and her nine RBI in the contest also represents a single-game school record.
· The Middleburg, Fla., native recorded the first multi-homer game of her career.
· The grand slam for No. 55 was Florida’s second of the season and second in three days (Fuller, Friday vs. Liberty).
· Florida scored 20+ runs in a game for the first time since March 2, 2013, vs. Florida A&M (W, 20-2, 5 innings).
· The Orange and Blue set 2015 team bests with 20 runs and 15 hits in the first game of the doubleheader.
· Wheaton’s slam marked her first career home run.
· The Gators now lead the all-time series against Mercer, 6-0. This includes four mercy-rule victories dating back to 2008.
· Stewart’s leadoff triple in Game 1 was the 19th of her career, extending her school record.
· Haeger’s home run was the 58th of her career, bringing the senior within seven dingers of Megan Bush’s Gator standard.
· The Arizona native homered for the fourth consecutive game, marking the second time in her career she has accomplished this feat (also: March 16-22, 2013 – five home runs in four games).
· Kvistad hit her second and third home runs of the weekend (also: Friday vs. Liberty).
· Ocasio’s home run in Game 2 was her first career dinger.
· Megan Reed singled as a pinch-hitter during Game 1, marking her first career hit.
· Merritt had her ninth HBP in the season’s 15th game; she was hit eight times in 67 games last season.
· Florida wore its new cream throwback jerseys for the first time.
On having a deep roster with many players who can produce runs:
“That’s the beauty of recruiting. Go out and recruit good players and give them an opportunity to be successful. We swung the bat pretty well today. My assessment is that this is one of the hottest hitting teams when things are going [well], and maybe one of the coldest teams when things don’t go as well. It’s a little ‘hot and cold’ [with] split personalities at times. Most of the time I give the credit to the other team – the pitchers prepare. I really like being able to get the output of runs, hits and good at-bats from everybody today.”
On the five-win weekend as a whole:
“I thought we did a good job of being able to adjust to the circumstances with the cold temperature on Friday and changing [the tournament schedule] to doubleheaders on Saturday and Sunday. We didn’t show any signs of excuses or anything of that nature. I thought we prepared well. We went out and had good intentions. We had to make a last-second defensive change at the end of the last game, so I thought our team did a good job of adjusting on the fly.”
On next week’s games against UCF and at the San Diego Classic I:
“For the most part, we know what we have now. Most of our players have got a pretty good handle on their roles and some of the things they can do. It’s nice to be able to have a Briana Little and a Justine McLean and a Nicole DeWitt and a Kayli Kvistad. They may not start every game, but when their number is called, they’re going to go out there and give you their best.”
– Florida Head Coach Tim Walton
FLORIDA PLAYER QUOTES
Freshman Utility Player Kayli Kvistad
On what went into her two home runs:
"Just a lot of hard work and dedication in practice. In the games you've just got to just hit how you practice. Taking it from the cage to the game is a big part. I just wanted to help my team."
On the 20 runs scored in the first game:
"We all practice hard, and I think we have a lot of power on the team this year. I think it works to our advantage."
Senior Outfielder Briana Little
On her record-setting three home runs in the first game:
"I was just really excited to get in the game, and to be ready. I'm just happy to be able to contribute to the team. I was just going up there looking for pitches to hit hard."
On her mentality going into the game:
"Today I just told myself to relax. When I saw a strike, I was going to hit it hard."
Florida will host in-state rival UCF at 6 p.m. ET on Wednesday to wrap up an 11-game homestand. 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 can be found on the schedule page<http://www.gatorzone.com/schedule.php?sport=softb> on GatorZone.com.