Special to Gator Country
San Diego – The No. 1-ranked University of Florida softball team ran its season-opening win streak to 21 games with a 9-0 (5 innings) win over UC Davis and an 8-0 (5 innings) victory against San Diego on Day 2 of the San Diego Classic I. Delanie Gourley and Lauren Haeger combined for a two-hit shutout against the Aggies, while Aleshia Ocasio blanked the Toreros in a one-hitter.
Two California-born freshmen led Florida at the plate in the first game, as Nicole DeWitt had three RBI and Janell Wheaton drove in a pair of runs. In the second contest, upperclassmen Bailey Castro and Kirsti Merritt both homered and had two RBI.
Florida got on the board in the bottom of the first against the Aggies as Kelsey Stewart led off with a double before coming home on an RBI two-base hit by Haeger. Haeger and Bailey Castro drew one-out walks in the third, with the Arizona native scoring on Taylore Fuller’s RBI single through the right side. DeWitt then walked to load the bases, and Wheaton capitalized with a two-run double to left-center to raise the lead to 4-0.
The Gators’ momentum continued in the fourth when Kirsti Merritt drew a one-out walk before going first-to-third on a base hit by Haeger. Merritt then scored on Castro’s RBI single, and Fuller got a hit of her own to load the bases for DeWitt. The first-year Gator cleared the bases with a double to left, increasing the UF advantage to 8-0. DeWitt advanced on a UC Davis fielding error and then came home with Florida’s ninth run on an RBI groundout by pinch-hitter Kayli Kvistad.
Following four scoreless innings of one-hit ball from Gourley, Haeger moved to the circle and allowed a one-out double in the fifth before closing out the mercy-rule victory for the Gators.
Stewart singled and Merritt walked in the top of the first against San Diego, with the infielder coming home on Castro’s sacrifice fly to center and the outfielder scoring on an RBI double by Fuller. Florida loaded the bases two innings later when Castro was hit by a pitch, DeWitt singled to right-center and Kvistad walked. The Orange and Blue extended their lead to 3-0 when Ocasio reached on a two-out error by the USD shortstop, allowing Castro to come home.
The Pembroke Pines, Fla., native provided more insurance in the fourth with a solo home run to right-center. Justine McLean beat out and infield single to lead off the next inning, advancing on Taylor Schwarz’ single and then scoring when USD threw the ball into center field on double steal by the Gators. The junior scored later in the frame on a sacrifice fly by Stewart, and Merritt ran the lead to 8-0 with a two-run home run to left field that plated pinch-hitter Chelsea Herndon, who had walked.
San Diego had a leadoff double to center field in the fifth for its first hit of the game, but Ocasio got a popout, groundout and strikeout to seal Florida’s 21st win of the year.
STARS OF THE GAMES
* Janell Wheaton: Playing two hours south of her hometown of San Dimas, Calif., the freshman catcher roped a two-run double against the Aggies, providing insurance in the Gator win.
* Nicole DeWitt: Just 90 minutes from her hometown of Garden Grove, Calif., the first-year Gator provided the mercy-rule margin with her three-run double in the fourth.
* Bailey Castro: The senior outfielder reached base in five of her six plate appearances on the day, scoring four times and driving in three runs.
* 10 of Florida’s 21 wins this year have come in five innings.
* Wheaton’s two-RBI double in Game 1 was her first two-base hit since she doubled twice against Hampton in the season opener on Feb. 6.
* DeWitt’s double was the first of her career, and her three RBI in the contest tied her career high.
* Haeger recorded her sixth multi-hit game of the season, while Fuller had her third.
* Castro’s home run was her fifth of the year, breaking a tie with Kvistad to take sole possession of second place on the team (Haeger – 6).
* Merritt’s blast was her fourth of the year and her fourth since Feb. 8, when she totaled three homers against Jacksonville and USF in Tampa.
* Ocasio’s shutout against San Diego marked Florida’s third solo one-hitter of the season (last: Ocasio vs. Illinois State, Feb. 21).
On Florida’s offensive production on Saturday:
“It’s a great way to generate offense, by manufacturing runs. You can’t always hit the home run, especially in a big ballpark like we were playing [in] today. It was nice to get some runs on the board early.”
On the Gator pitching staff, which allowed a total of three hits in two games:
“Delanie set the tempo today for us. [She] did a good job – gave up the first hit of the game and then settled in nicely, and Lauren came in and closed the door. I thought Aleshia was really good, changing speeds, spins, locations [and] using her defense. I thought all in all, [it was] a solid day all the way around.”
On Sunday’s game against San Diego State:
“San Diego State is a good team. It’s a good opportunity for us to play a team like [them, who has been]. Mountain West champion a lot of times in a row. A good team on their home field – a true road game on aSunday. It almost has a championship-type tournament feeling. I think it will be great. Hopefully, weather permitting, we’ll get a chance to get out there and play. The overall complexion of our team is really good – the baserunning, the defense, the pitching, the hitting and the timely hitting. That’s what it’s going to take to win this weekend.”
- Florida Head Coach Tim Walton
Florida concludes play at the San Diego Classic I on Sunday, when the Gators will face tournament co-host San Diego State at 2:30 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, a live stats link can be found on the schedule page<http://www.gatorzone.com/schedule.php?sport=softb> on GatorZone.com.