Offense Fuels No. 1 Florida to Series-Opening Win over Arkansas

Report on the Florida Gators softball team:

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – The No. 1 Florida softball team (50-4/18-4 SEC) defeated Arkansas (17-37/1-21 SEC), 9-0 (five innings), in the opener of the teams’ three-game Southeastern Conference series on Friday at KSP Stadium. Three different seniors hit home runs for the Gators and Aleshia Ocasio (19-1) threw a complete-game shutout and recorded five strikeouts while yielding three hits and no walks.

UF’s magic number to clinch its sixth SEC Championship is just one. The Gators can win the title with a win or an Auburn loss to Texas A&M on Friday night, or with a win on Saturday. Florida, picked in the preseason to win the SEC, is looking to win its second-straight SEC regular season crown for the first time since the Gators went back-to-back in 2008 and 2009.

Florida has the opportunity to clinch the SEC regular-season title at home for the first time since 1998.

UF wasted no time grabbing the lead on Friday night, as the Gators scored three runs on three hits in the bottom of the first inning.

Kelsey Stewart led off the game with a single, extending her hitting streak to nine games, and Amanda Lorenz followed with a walk. With runners on first and second and no one out, sophomore Kayli Kvistad mashed her sixth double of the season off the centerfield wall to score Stewart.

Kirsti Merritt followed with an infield single to score Lorenz. Florida scored their final run of the inning on a double steal.

UF stretched its lead to 4-0 in the bottom of the second when Stewart hit a solo home run to right.

Arkansas had its best chance to score in the top of the fourth when Heirs and Diaz recorded a pair of singles to place runners on first and third. Unfazed, Ocasio induced a groundout to get out of the jam and keep the Razorbacks scoreless.

Senior Kirsti Merritt began a five-run fifth inning when she launched her seventh home run of the season to straight-away center.

After Janell Wheaton recorded a pinch-hit RBI single to bring the score to 6-0, senior Taylore Fuller hit a walk-off three run home run to end the ball game.

Team Notes

*With tonight’s win, Florida is now 50-4 and still holds the highest win percentage (.926) in the country.

*Florida’s now won at least 50 games in four-straight seasons and 2016 is the eighth time in school history that UF has accomplished this feat.

*Florida, who’s currently in first place in the SEC standings, has its magic number down to one to clinch its sixth SEC Championship.

*UF can clinch the title on Saturday with a win over Arkansas.

*Florida is now 18-4 in league play.

*If the Gators sweep Arkansas this weekend, four losses would be tied with the Gators 2010 squad for the third fewest losses in conference play in school history.

*On the flip side, Florida could win 20 SEC games for the seventh time in school history.

*Florida’s senior class is now 223-32, which currently ranks fourth among four-year class records in program history.

*Sitting third on this list is UF’s 2010 graduating class that went 225-42 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.

*Friday’s game was broadcast on SEC Network+. Florida is now 27-3 in contests that are streamed online.

*Florida is now 29-0 this season against unranked opponents this season.