Special report on the Florida Gators softball team:
LAFAYETTE, La. – No. 2 Florida shut out No.16/19 Louisiana in back-to-back games on the road at Lamson Park. Kelly Barnhill (3-0) and Aleshia Ocasio (4-0) picked up the victories in the circle.
The duo of Barnhill and Ocasio held the Ragin’ Cajuns (6-2) scoreless and limited the potent offense to just six hits through 13.0 innings. Today was the first time that Louisiana was shut out since a loss to Alabama, Feb. 18, 2017.
It’s also been over a decade since Ragin’ Cajuns have been shut out in back-to-back games. The last time occurred Apr. 6, 2007 in a pair of games against FIU.
In the first game of the day it took six innings before the Gators broke onto the scoreboard, but there were plenty of opportunities for both teams.
In the bottom of the first with one out and a runner at second, Louisiana was poised to score first. A heads up play from sophomore right fielder Jaimie Hoover spoiled the opportunity as she made a perfect throw to retire a racing Brittany Rodriguez at home.
Florida (8-0) looked to strike first in the top of the third after a leadoff walk by Sophia Reynoso and a single up the middle by Alex Voss put a pair of Gators on with no outs.
The stage was set for Amanda Lorenz to drive in the first run of the game. The Moorpark, Calif. native roped a line drive to third, but an exceptional play was made by Kara Gremillion to pick the ball out of the air and whip it back to second for a double play.
Louisiana escaped the inning without any damage done after Nicole DeWitt sent a fly ball to the wall in right center for the third out.
The Gators broke open the scoring in the sixth and took a 2-0 lead over the Ragin’ Cajuns. With one out, Lorenz beat out an infield single to Alissa Dalton at shortstop to set the table for Nicole DeWitt. DeWitt sent the 1-0 pitch opposite field well past the left field wall for her first home run of the season.
Florida didn’t stop there as Janell Wheaton turned on a 1-2 pitch that quickly went over the wall down the left field line for a two-run home run.
The 4-0 lead is all the cushion pitcher Kelly Barnhill needed to secure the two-hit complete-game shutout in the first game.
The Gators wasted no time in game two to put runs on the board.
Florida engineered four runs on a pair of hits and an error in the top of the first inning. Jordan Roberts started the scoring with her two RBI single through the left side. An RBI fielder’s choice and a Ragin’ Cajun error resulted in two more runs before Louisiana got out of the inning.
DeWitt struck again with her second home run of the day. The two-run shot over the wall in right center pushed the Gators lead out to 6-0 over the Ragin’ Cajuns.
In the sixth inning, the Gators patience at the plate resulted in three more runs that extended the lead out to 9-0. Florida utilized three straight walks to load the bases with no outs before scoring via a hit by pitch, bases loaded walk and a SAC fly.
The Gators and the Ragin’ Cajuns will conclude the series tomorrow at 2 p.m. ET.
On how the team performed against a quality opponent on the road…
“Overall, I don’t think we played our cleanest, or our best, ball of the season. Just getting our players to understand that you have to keep plugging away and keep fighting on the road in a tough environment. They had a really great crowd, had great energy and they did some nice things defensively as a team. Overall I was pleased with the two wins, but we are definitely going to have to play better tomorrow.”
* Florida improved to 5-4 all-time against Louisiana after today’s doubleheader.
o The Gators have now won the last five matchups.
* Senior Kayli Kvistad is currently chasing the Florida all-time record for walks that is held by Lauren Haeger (2012-15). Haeger recorded 175 walks throughout her illustrious career but Kvistad is making a run and sits sixth all-time with 135.
o Kvistad recorded three walks today through two games.
* The Gators have outscored opponents 64-3 through the first eight games of the season and has scored those runs in bunches.
o With four runs scored in the sixth inning of game one and in the first of game two against the Ragin’ Cajuns, the Gators have now scored four or more runs in an inning eight times this season.
* Barnhill is chasing a record of her own as she is racing up the all-time strikeout list. She has tallied 555 strikeouts throughout her career and sits sixth all-time in the UF record book. Stacey Nelson (2006-09) holds the record with 1,116 strikeouts.
o The next spot ahead of Barnhill is held by Stacey Stevens (2004-07) – she struck out 624 batters.
* Nicole DeWitt and Janell Wheaton both hit their first home runs of the season in the sixth inning of game one against No. 16 Louisiana.
o DeWitt tacked on her second home run of the season in game two of the doubleheader and finished the day 2-for-4 with four runs scored, four RBI and four walks.