#1 Florida Gators softball clinches series against #16 Tennessee

Special report on the Florida Gators softball team:
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Sophomores Nicole DeWitt and Kayli Kvistad drove in all four Florida runs, while freshman Kelly Barnhill earned her 10th win in the circle during Saturday’s rain-delayed series-clinching win, as No. 1 Florida downed No. 16 Tennessee, 4-2.

With the win, UF continued its streak of not dropping a series against Tennessee in Gainesville since 2007. In addition, Florida has now opened Southeastern Conference play with back-to-back series victories for the first time since 2014.

Barnhill (10-0) allowed two runs on four hits and recorded nine strikeouts to go along with just one walk. She was relieved by sophomore Aleshia Ocasio who threw two perfect innings and earned the third save of her season.

Florida got on the board early with a pair of runs in the bottom of the first on three hits. This was the third straight game that UF’s offense plated at least two runs in the first inning.

The Gators scored those runs on a pair of RBI singles by Kvistad and DeWitt. Senior Kelsey Stewart set the inning up for success when she led off with a single up the middle.

After the Volunteers failed to score with the bases loaded in the fourth, they didn’t miss their chance in the fifth.

UT’s Megan Geer capitalized on a bases-loaded RBI opportunity, as she recorded a two-run single up the middle to even the score at 2-2.

Undaunted, Florida had an answer.

In the bottom half of the inning, Florida retook the lead on a hit by pitch and three walks. DeWitt was the one who notched the RBI base on balls for the Gators.

UF added an insurance run in the seventh on a Kvistad single to center. Tennessee opened the door for that run on an error by its second baseman.

News & Notes
*Florida is now tied with its 2011 team for the best start to a season in school history with a 29-1 record.

*UF has now outscored its opponents this season, 205-28.

*In 2015, UF had a plus-174 run differential (229-55) through 30 games.

*In 2014, UF had a plus-176 run differential (221-45) through 30 games.

*Florida’s 28 runs allowed through 30 games is tied for the second fewest in school history through this point in any season.

*UF’s 2009 squad allowed 23 tallies through 30 contests and Florida’s last two NCAA Championship teams had allowed 45 (2014) and 55 (2015) runs, respectively.

*The Gators have made just 11 errors this season and currently sport one of the best fielding percentages (.985) and earned run averages in the nation (0.90). For comparison, Florida had committed 22 errors in its first 30 contests last season and had a fielding percentage of .971. UF went on to record its best fielding percentage (.981) and commit just 33 errors, which were both school records

*Florida’s senior class is now 202-29, which currently ranks ninth among four-year class records in program history.

*Sitting eighth on this list UF’s 2008 graduating class that went 204-75 throughout its four seasons.

*Taylore Fuller, Kirsti Merritt, Aubree Munro, Taylor Schwarz and Kelsey Stewart are trying to catch UF’s 2011 class which boasted a 238-33 mark during their four years.

*Tim Walton is now just 19 wins away from his 600th win at Florida.
Walton earned his 700th career win on March 12 at Auburn.

*Hitting Streak:
Justine McLean – nine games (career long)
Kayli Kvistad is hitting .577 (15 for 26) over her last 10 games with three home runs, one double, 17 RBI and six runs scored.

*UF did not allow a stolen base on Saturday, remaining the only team in the SEC who has yet to allow more than one stolen base in 2016.

*Auburn entered this weekend second in the league with five stolen bases allowed.

UF hitters have struck out 82 times on the year; two of the Gators’ three pitchers has 87+ strikeouts
(Delanie Gourley – 87, Kelly Barnhill – 99, Aleshia Ocasio – 73).
They are looking to become the second trio in school history to all record 100+ strikeouts in a season.

*UF achieved this feat last season when Lauren Haeger (214), Aleshia Ocasio (155) and Delanie Gourley (105) all reached the century mark.

*Barnhill is looking to become the fifth Gator freshman in six years to record 100+ strikeouts.

*Gourley (9-0), Ocasio (10-1) and Barnhill (10-0) are also trying to become the third trio in three years and third school history to all recorded at least 10 wins.

*Kelsey Stewart stole two bases in today’s game, marking the first time she has accomplished that feat this season. The senior last did it on June 3, 2016 in the final game of the Women’s College World Series Championship Series against Michigan.

Coaches’ Corner
Head Coach Tim Walton:
On the game overall…
“I think Kelly (Barnhill) had some really good stuff today. She got a little timid in the fourth and fifth innings, but I thought her stuff was good. She’s got a really electric rise ball and did a good job setting the tone early in the game. Scoring runs early obviously helped set the tone too. That forced them (Tennessee) to change their swings when they’re down 2-0. We did give up two runs on a single but the way we came back and got the next run was huge.”

Series History
After today’s win, Florida has won the past three matchups with Tennessee. The Gators now holds the all-time advantage in this series, 44-24, including a 24-5 mark in Gainesville.

Prior to this weekend, Florida and Tennessee last met at the Women’s College World Series on May 28, 2015, when the Gators defeated the Vols in both squads’ opening game, 7-2.

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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.