There must’ve been something in the air on opening night in Oklahoma City as the No. 2 seed Florida Gators run ruled the No. 7 seed Georgia Bulldogs 11-3 on Thursday.
The ball carried over the fence five times between the two teams in the game, but the Gators made every single swing count.
Things didn’t start out in Florida’s favor, with senior pitcher Aleshia Ocasio getting the start in the circle. It took her a little while to find her groove, as she was missing up in the zone to one of the strongest lineups in the country.
Slapper Cortni Emanuel was the first to take advantage with a leadoff single up the middle in the top of the first inning. She then attempted a steal, and shortstop Sophia Reynoso was called for obstruction on the play, making her safe at second base.
That opened the door for a two-run opposite field shot by Justice Milz on a pitch right at the letters. Just like that, the Bulldogs were on top 2-0.
Florida had already struggled with Georgia in the regular season, but it would not go away that easily. Nicole DeWitt, Kayli Kvistad and Janell Wheaton all reached with one out in the bottom of the inning, and Jordan Matthews came to the plate with the bases loaded.
It wasn’t a walk off homer by any means, but Matthews put one over the left fielder’s head for a two RBI double to tie the game 2-2.
After giving up a home run just a few minutes before, Ocasio came through with one of her own to put the Gators on top 5-2 and leave the poor start in the circle behind her.
Ocasio gave up a two-out double to Georgia’s nine-hole hitter in the second inning, but didn’t let it phase her and came out of it unscathed.
The Bulldogs did not come out of the bottom of the inning so lucky. Lorenz and Kvistad walked and DeWitt singled through the right side to load the bases with one out once again. Georgia called to the bullpen, but decided at the last minute to let starting pitcher Mary Wilson Avant go one more batter.
It looked like it would pay off as Wheaton grounded into what appeared to be a double play ball, but the Bulldogs misplayed it and only got Kvistad out at second, while Lorenz crossed the plate for another Florida run.
The Gators took it to the third inning leading 6-3.
Ocasio started out strong again, tacking on her fourth and fifth strikeouts of the night, including Milz, who put one over the fence in the first inning.
Then, Alyssa DiCarlo came up to the plate. She has a history of taking the Gators deep this season, and history repeated itself as she put a pretty swing on a pretty pitch for a solo shot to straight center. The Gators couldn’t answer for the first time on offense, but still led 6-3.
It didn’t look like Florida would have much to say in the bottom of the fourth inning either, until pinch hitter Jordan Roberts came up with DeWitt on third and two outs.
She cranked one to left center that might still be carrying. There was no doubt that ball was going over the fence from the moment it left her bat, and Florida’s lead extended to 8-3.
Ocasio continued to do work in the circle, finishing the fifth inning with seven strikeouts on the night. She took her team to the bottom of the fifth with run rule on the mind.
Hannah Adams led off with just her third home run of the season to right field, and that made it time for another Georgia pitching change.
New pitcher Amanda Ablan did not give herself a chance, giving up three straight walks to Sophia Reynoso, Jaimie Hoover and Lorenz.
The Bulldogs called to Keara Napoli with the winning run on second base and no outs in the inning. She got DeWitt to fly out to left field, but there would be no more contact for the rest of the game, and there wouldn’t need to be.
Kvistad drew a walk to score Reynoso, and Wheaton was hit by a pitch on an 0-2 count to score Hoover and end the game on an 11-3 run rule.
It certainly was not the most exciting finish, but it is a finish Florida will take.
The Gators had seven hits (including three long balls) and drew eight walks in the game. All 10 Florida batters to come to the plate were able to reach base at least once.
Now, there is no time for rest as the Gators must prepare to take on the winner of Thursday night’s late game between Florida State and UCLA. Florida will play its next game at 9:30 p.m. on Friday.