Florida softball clinches series at Ole Miss

OXFORD, Miss. — Megan Bush (Anaheim Hills, Calif.) was a perfect 3-for-3 with seven RBI and one walk, tallying a single, double and homer, while senior Kelsey Bruder (Corona, Calif.) was 2-for-2 with three runs and two RBI to lead No. 2/3 Florida to an 18-3, five-inning victory over Ole Miss Saturday afternoon at the Ole Miss Softball Complex. Florida (29-1, 5-0 SEC) clinched the series with the Rebels (10-20, 0-5 SEC) behind 11 hits, two home runs, while drawing nine walks in the second game of the series.

Freshman righty Hannah Rogers (Lake Wales, Fla.) tossed another stellar outing against Ole Miss, giving up just one hit through 3.0 innings, while striking out three, to improve to 15-1 on the season, while sophomore Ensley Gammel (Bakersfield, Calif.) was in the circle for the Gators for the final two innings. Gammel tallied three strikeouts, but gave up Ole Miss’ only three runs in the bottom of the fourth.

For the second day in a row, the Rebels’ Barnhill (1-7) shouldered the loss against the Orange and Blue, which faced three pitchers in Saturday’s outing. Barnhill was relieved by Perry with no outs in the first inning after giving up Florida’s first four runs on four hits, including a walk. Florida faced Perry and Bruning for the majority of the afternoon, Bruning for the final 3.0 innings, as she fanned seven, walked three and gave up Florida’s final eight runs.

A Kasey Fagan (Dunnellon, Fla.) grand slam, her second of the season and UF’s seventh, led the Gators to a 7-0 first-inning start as UF cycled through the batting order once, starting and ending with junior Michelle Moultrie (Jacksonville, Fla.), who started with a base hit and advanced to second on a fielding error by the centerfielder. Senior Aja Paculba (Wildomar, Calif.) followed with an RBI single up the middle to drive in Moultrie. Three consecutive walks for sophomore Brittany Schutte (Fountain Valley, Calif.), Bush and freshman Cheyenne Coyle (West Hills, Calif.) resulted in another run, as well as a pitching change for the Rebels, who replaced Brittany Barnhill with Lindsey Perry mid-way through Bush’s at-bat. With bases loaded, Fagan came up for the final four runs of the inning to take the Orange and Blue up, 7-0, following the first.

Florida, not only playing stellar offense, turned a nice defensive double play to put two down in the bottom of the first inning as Coyle flipped the ball to Paculba for the out at second, and Paculba connected with Bush at first to put out RT Cantillo. Following Ole Miss’ first hit of the game from Londen Ladner, Rogers followed with a strikeout for the final out of the inning to maintain the UF lead.

Florida added three runs in the second to go up, 10-0, as two consecutive walks for Bruder and Schutte brought up Bush, who clocked her 13 homer of the season out of the park for three Gator runs. Rogers retired three straight batters, one by fly out and two by strikeout, at the bottom of the second to bring up the third inning for Florida.

Following a fielding error by the Rebels’ third baseman in the top of the third and two consecutive walks, the Gators loaded the bags, yet again, allowing Bush, who owns a Florida record 18-game hit streak, to capitalize with a double to right center that drove in junior Ashley Snedeker (Bloomington, Minn.) and Paculba to add two more runs, extending Florida’s lead to 12-0 after three innings of play

After Rogers put three down in the bottom of the third, two by groundout and one pop up, Florida poured on five runs in the fourth inning to continue the scoring barrage, started off by a Fagan walk and a Gammel hit-by-pitch. Sophomore Kelsey Horton (Valrico, Fla.) singled up the middle to load the bases and turn over the lineup. Following a Moultrie strikeout, Paculba brought home Fagan with a single through the right side to increase the lead to 13-0. Bruder delivered next with a two-RBI double to left center, scoring both Gammel and Horton, to set up another Bush dart, this time to left field to bring home Paculba. Coyle added UF’s fifth hit of the inning, a single to center field, to score Bruder. Through the lineup for the second time in an inning Saturday, Fagan ended the inning with a K after reaching base on a walk to kick off the fourth.

Ole Miss avoided becoming UF’s 17th shutout of the season as the Rebels put three runs on the board in the bottom of the fourth, connecting for two hits, a Barnhill double and an Overbeck single, to compliment three stolen bases for the home team. The Florida defense cut the Rebels’ rally short when Horton caught Ole Miss’ Hutcheson attempting a fourth stolen base when the Gator catcher quickly connected with Coyle at shortstop for the out at second base.

The Orange and Blue added one more run to the total in the top of the fifth on a Moultrie groundout that allowed Gammel to score after reaching on an error by the Ole Miss shortstop, stealing second and advancing to third on a passed ball. Gammel and the Gator defense held the Rebels scoreless in the fifth, allowing no hits, while Gammel tallied one strikeout, a fly out and a groundout to wrap up the game.

The final game of Florida’s series with Ole Miss will kick off Sunday at 2 p.m. (ET) from Oxford as UF looks for the sweep. The Gators will then return home with no mid-week before facing No. 1 Georgia in a three-game series in Gainesville at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium, beginning Friday evening.