Florida softball off to hot start in Oxford

OXFORD, Miss. — In the first match-up of the three-game weekend series with Ole Miss Friday in Oxford, the No. 2/3 Gators used homers by senior Aja Paculba (Wildomar, Calif.) and freshman Cheyenne Coyle (West Hills, Calif.) to top the Rebels, 8-0, in six innings at the Ole Miss Softball Complex. Paculba finished the day 2-for-4 with three RBI and a run scored, while junior Ashley Snedeker (Bloomington, Minn.) went 2-for-3, while scoring one run.

Senior Megan Bush (Anaheim Hills, Calif.) set a Florida record, extending her hit streak to 17 games, topping the previous school record (16), held by Paculba (2010) and Melissa Zick (2007). Bush was 1-for-3 with one RBI and a walk against the Rebels.

Freshman pitcher Hannah Rogers (Lake Wales, Fla.) tossed a one-hitter, using just over 40 pitches against only19 Rebel batters to lead the Orange and Blue (28-1, 5-0 SEC) in the circle. Rogers fanned two, walked no one and allowed no runs for the Gators’ 16th shutout of the season, Rogers’ sixth, as the righty improved to 14-1 on the season.

Barnhill (1-6) tallied the loss for Ole Miss (10-19, 0-4 SEC), throwing 5.0 innings and allowing eight hits, seven runs, while walking five and striking out seven. The Rebel’s Perry finished out the final inning of the evening, giving up the ninth hit and eighth Gator run of the game.

Florida scattered its runs between the third, fourth and sixth innings, tallying one in the third, two in the fourth and five in the sixth to enforce the run rule for the 14th time this season against an opponent.

Snedeker started the third off for the Gators with a single up the middle, allowing Moultrie to capitalize on an error by the second baseman on her at-bat to put runners on first and second. A Paculba fielder’s choice eliminated Snedeker at third, but advanced Moultrie to second with Paculba at first. A Kelsey Bruder (Corona, Calif.) walk loaded the bags and a Bush walk sent Moultrie across home plate to take UF ahead, 1-0.

Rogers used just three pitches to retire three Ole Miss batters in the bottom of the third to bring up the fourth, where UF added two runs. Sophomore Kelsey Horton (Valrico, Fla.) reached second on a fielding error by the Ole Miss second baseman, bringing in pinch runner and eventual right fielder Ensley Gammel (Bakersfield, Calif.). Another Snedeker single advanced Gammel to third. Snedeker proceeded to steal second, while Gammel came home on an error by the catcher. A Paculba single up the middle brought Snedeker home for the 3-0 advantage after the top of the fourth.

Following a scoreless fifth inning for both squads, Florida rolled in the top of the sixth after starting off at the top of the lineup with a Moultrie walk that set up Paculba’s ninth homer, a long ball to left center that extended the lead, 5-0, in favor of the Gators. Two consecutive singles from Bruder and sophomore Brittany Schutte (Fountain Valley, Calif.) spurred a pitching change, but the Gators were aggressive on the base paths, executing a double-steal that advanced Bruder to third and Schutte to second, while both took an extra base, Schutte moving to third, and Bruder scoring on the second catcher’s error of the game, this time Overbeck, as Florida went ahead, 6-0. Freshman Cheyenne Coyle (West Hills, Calif.) sent Florida’s second homer of the inning, her fifth of the season, out of the park to score Schutte and herself, resulting in the final margin, 8-0.

Rogers used two groundouts and a fly out to end the sixth for Ole Miss.

The Gators and Rebels will be at it again Saturday at 2 p.m. (ET) from Oxford, home of the 2011 SEC Championship Tournament.