Florida Gators: Softball crushes Long Beach State

Long Beach, Calif. - The No. 1-ranked University of Florida softball team defeated Long Beach State, 10-1, on Wednesday to earn its 22nd consecutive win to open the 2015 season. Freshman right-hander Aleshia Ocasio improved to 7-0 on the year, while Kelsey Stewart and Lauren Haeger both had multiple RBI for the Gators.

UF started quickly with three runs in the top of the first. Stewart led off with a double to right before walks to Haeger and Bailey Castro loaded the bases. Taylore Fuller then walked to force in Stewart for the game's first run before Haeger scored on a wild pitch to Taylor Schwarz. Aubree Munro singled through the middle to bring in Castro for the Gators' third run, but Fuller was thrown out at home on the play to end the inning.

Long Beach State responded with a run in the bottom of the frame with a leadoff triple and a single by the No. 2 hitter. Ocasio got out of a one-out, bases-loaded jam to strand three runners and keep the score 3-1. UF had the bases full in the second on walks to Ocasio and Stewart and a hit-by-pitch by Kirsti Merritt, and the second baseman scored on a LBSU fielding error when Haeger reached on a fielder's choice.

The Gators' scoring continued with four more runs in the sixth. Ocasio helped her own cause with a leadoff single up the middle, scoring two batters later when Stewart reached on an error by the pitcher. Justine McLean followed Ocasio with a walk and Haeger extended the lead to 8-1 with a one-out home run to left.

Florida put the finishing touches on the win in the seventh with a two-run double from Stewart that scored pinch-runner Francesca Martinez and pinch-hitter Briana Little, who had walked. Haeger moved to the circle in the bottom of the inning, tossing a 1-2-3 frame with one strikeout


*         Lauren Haeger: The senior's sixth-inning home run was her team-best third three-run shot of the year, giving the designated player her squad-leading eighth multi-RBI game.

*         Kelsey Stewart: The leadoff hitter's first-inning double led to Florida's first run, setting the table for a three-run frame that provided all the support Ocasio would need.

*         Aleshia Ocasio: The freshman won her sixth straight start to begin her Gator career, allowing one run on four hits with eight strikeouts over six innings.


*         Florida's 22-game win streak matches last year's team for the second-longest season-opening run in program history (24, 2011). The Gators can match the record on Thursday with wins against No. 3/2 Michigan and San Jose State.

*         Stewart's leadoff double extended her hitting streak to eight games dating back to Feb. 22. The streak ties her season-long (also: Feb. 6-14).

*         The junior infielder scored multiple runs in a game for the third time this year (last: Feb. 14 vs. NC State).

*         Haeger's home run was her team-best seventh of the year and her first since she homered in four straight games Feb. 20-22 during the Aquafina Invitational.

*         The Arizona native now has 59 career home runs, closing to within six of Megan Bush's program record.

*         Castro has reached base in 15 consecutive games, tying her career-best streak.

*         Merritt was hit by three pitches, marking the third time in school history a Gator has been plunked three times (last: Francesca Enea, May 9, 2009, vs. Alabama).

*         The junior outfielder has been hit a team-most 17 times through 22 games this season.

*         The 49ers' first-inning run was just the second run allowed by Florida in the opening frame this season (also: Feb. 22 vs. Mercer, Game 1).

*         The game was delayed 65 minutes because of traffic, causing the umpires to arrive late.


On the win:

"It's one of those things - we sustained at-bats all the way through the game and got through the lineup for the fourth time. I think the third time through the lineup, we definitely made some good, quality adjustments. We manufactured runs pretty much throughout the whole game - I thought Lele pitched a nice game again, and Lauren pitched a great seventh [inning]."

On facing tough competition during the next three days at the Judi Garman Classic:

"I think it's the same thing we've been doing - trying to do a good job of focusing on what we do and not get caught up in what the opponent has or does. [We are] playing some good teams. To be a good team, you have to play good teams. To be a good team, you have to beat good teams. The big thing for our team is to come out and play good defense like we've been playing and get the pitching we've had. If we get the good pitching we've had, it's really tough to beat."

- Florida Head Coach Tim Walton


Florida will open play at the Judi Garman Classic in Fullerton, Calif., on Thursday with games against No. 3/2 Michigan and San Jose State. First pitch for the game against the Wolverines is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. ET, with the contest against the Spartans to follow at approximately 7 p.m. ET. 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 for select games can be found on the schedule page<http://www.gatorzone.com/schedule.php?sport=softb> on GatorZone.com.


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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.