The Florida Gators softball team’s season ended at the hands of the Oklahoma Sooners for the second year in a row in Oklahoma City on Saturday night.
The Gators never could get a handle on All-American pitcher Paige Parker as she dished a two hit shutout to hand Florida a 2-0 loss.
One of those two hits came in the top of the first inning from senior Kayli Kvistad, who has been hot the entire Women’s College World Series. She drilled one over the right fielder’s head for a long two-out single, but that would about do it for Florida’s offensive production on the night.
Head coach Tim Walton opted to go back to Kelly Barnhill in the circle for the second night in a row after she suffered her second loss of the season to UCLA on Friday.
Her night did not start out the way the Gators hoped as Oklahoma freshman phenom Jocelyn Alo took the very first pitch she saw out of Barnhill’s hand over the left field fence and made it 1-0 Sooners. That was a freshman record for Alo, who has 30 home runs on the season so far.
Jaimie Hoover made a nice play in right field behind Barnhill in the second inning, slamming into the fence on a foul ball down the line. One runner reached in the second, but none crossed the plate.
Barnhill walked the first batter of the third inning on four pitches, and Walton wasted no time calling Aleshia Ocasio in from center field and to the circle. He said it was his plan all along to take Barnhill out early and throw the Sooners off balance, but it was a rather abrupt ending to the season for one of the top pitchers in all of college softball.
Ocasio got two quick outs, but the Gators decided to put runners on first and second with Alo coming back to the plate. The intentional walk set up last year’s WCWS MVP Shay Knighten with a chance to bat in another Oklahoma run.
The Gators would get out of it this time as Ocasio struck her out to take it to the fourth inning still a one run game.
While Florida was struggling in the batter’s box, it was not the greatest offensive night for the Sooners either. Both teams went down 1-2-3 to make for a fast fourth inning.
The fifth is when things changed. While the Gators could not put a runner on base for the second inning in a row, the Sooners led off their half of the inning with a walk.
Ocasio followed it up with two straight strikeouts, but .400 hitter Sydney Romero hopped her first hit of the night over third baseman Nicole DeWitt’s head to put Florida in another two-out jam with Alo coming up.
The Gators decided the best option would be to intentionally walk her again and load the bases. It almost paid off as Knighten struck out on a pitch in the dirt, but Janell Wheaton couldn’t keep it in front and it skipped off far enough for another run to score.
Ocasio then got her fourth strikeout of the inning to stop the bleeding, but with the way Florida was swinging the bats, two runs would be a lot to come back from.
The Gators went down without a fight again in the sixth and had only three more outs to work with and the heart of the order coming up.
Kvistad started off the seventh, but struck out swinging in her final at bat. Wheaton came through behind her with a two-strike single up the middle and that put the tying run at the plate in the form of Jordan Roberts.
Roberts got the start after hitting home runs in pinch hit appearances two nights in a row, but she struck out and Hoover chopped one to third base to bring the game, and Florida’s season, to a close.
It was a heartbreaking end for the Gators, but they simply never gave themselves a chance, never even putting a runner in scoring position. Not many games have been won in that way.
Florida finished the season with a 56-11 overall record and said goodbye to a group of four seniors in Ocasio, Kvistad, Wheaton and DeWitt.