Special report on the Florida Gators softball team:
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – The University of Florida softball team clinched the series for the ninth-consecutive time against Auburn with a 7-0 victory in the second game Sunday, March 26, at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium. The Gators have won every three-game series dating back to the 2005 season.
Sophomore Kelly Barnhill fueled the Gators (29-1, 7-0 SEC) to their 20th-straight victory behind a season-high 16 strikeouts. Barnhill limited a potent Tigers (27-5, 2-3 SEC) offense to just two hits, both of which recorded by Kasey Cooper.
Senior Chelsea Herndon was the main force behind Florida’s nine hits. Herndon’s presence at the plate produced multiple runs in a variety of ways as she drove in runs via a single up the middle in the second inning, a sacrifice fly in the fourth and a bunt single in the fifth.
The Gators jumped out in front early 1-0 in the second inning on Herndon’s single up the middle of the Tigers defense, which allowed Aleshia Ocasio to score. Ocasio reached on a walk to start the inning and advanced into scoring position with her seventh stolen base of the season.
Herndon scored Ocasio for the second run of the game in the fourth via a SAC fly to left field. As the leadoff, Ocasio yet again found a way to produce and get on base. However, this time she ripped a double to gap in left center field for a double then advanced to third on freshman Jaimie Hoover’s groundout to Casey McCrackin at second base.
Florida put up five runs in the fifth behind an all-around group effort as Nicole DeWitt, Amanda Lorenz and Kayli Kvistad recorded three-straight hits. DeWitt doubled to right center to start the inning and scored via Lorenz’s RBI single. Kvistad pushed the Gators lead out to 4-0 with her sixth double of the season and scored Lorenz.
Lily Mann then entered to pinch run for Kvistad at second base and advanced to third on a SAC bunt from catcher Janell Wheaton. Mann later scored on a fielder’s choice by Ocasio to extend the Gators lead out to 5-0.
Herndon capped the scoring with her squeeze bunt single that came to an abrupt halt in between four Auburn defenders and allowed a streaking Ocasio to score from third. Ocasio crashed into home plate umpire Pay Lyon and between the commotion it allowed Herndon to race towards second and Jaimie Hoover bolted for home for the final run of the game.
The two teams will meet for the series finale tomorrow night at 7 p.m. during Monday Night Hype. Fans are encouraged to wear white to tomorrow’s game, which will also be televised on the SEC Network.
On the decision to call the squeeze with Herndon at the plate…
“I just thought that the timing was right and the book said that Swindle liked to throw a lot of changeups. I guessed right and got lucky. She threw a changeup and it was a good pitch for Chelsea to bunt and we got a great slide from Aleshia at the plate.” – Tim Walton
From the Players
On the offense producing to back Barnhill up…
“It’s amazing. When your offense produces runs, it makes everything easier. It’s really great and it gets you pumped up. They were just working really hard for me today, and I worked hard for them.” – Kelly Barnhill
On the atmosphere by the fans tonight at KSP Stadium…
“The energy was great and the crowd was awesome. I mean I love walking out here and seeing, you know, the hills filled and all the stands filled and just the energy was great. When the crowd is up, we’re up. And you know, coach was telling us in the dugout just keep the energy up, keep the energy up, and we were just having fun and that’s all were trying to do. Coach says ‘Don’t make it work-like, don’t come out here and try to just make it (feel) like working. Come out and just have a good time.’ And it’s softball, we’ve been playing it forever, so just come out and play the game you know how to play.” – Chelsea Herndon
· Aleshia Ocaiso scored a career-high three runs in the game.
o Her previous career-high was two against South Carolina (March 19, 2017)
· Kvistad’s pair of walks in the game pushed her to 7th most walks by a Florida junior in a single season as she now has 40 on the year. Entering this week Kvistad led the SEC and the nation in the category.
· The Gators extend their series win streak against Auburn to nine.
o The last time Auburn took a series from Florida was the 2005 season.
· Kelly Barnhill threw a season-high 16 strikeouts against Auburn.
o It’s also the most times Auburn has struck out this season (Last vs. Washington on Feb. 9)
· The 7-0 shutout by the Gators is the 20th shutout victory for the team on the season.