Special report on the Florida Gators softball team:
STARKVILLE, Miss. – The fifth-ranked Florida softball team completed the series sweep of No. 19 Mississippi State after it took the doubleheader, 6-2 & 3-0, Saturday afternoon at Nusz Park.
The Gators (41-7, 15-3 SEC) were lifted to the pair of victories over the Bulldogs (33-15, 6-12 SEC) with the aid of a grand slam from Amanda Lorenz in game one and complete-game shutout by Kelly Barnhill (21-1) in game two.
Game One | W, 6-2
Janell Wheaton belted her third home run of the season to give the Gators the early 1-0 lead in the top of the second inning. The San Dimas, Calif. native ripped the 2-2 pitch from Bulldogs starting pitcher Cassady Knudsen (13-5) over the wall in left center field to put UF on the board first for the second-straight game of the series.
Mississippi State knotted the game 1-1 in the bottom of the third inning. Bevia Robinson and Kat Moore produced back-to-back base hits and intentional walk to Mia Davidson loaded the bases with one out in the frame. Sarai Niu drove in Robinson on an infield groundout to Kvistad at first for the second out, before Aleshia Ocasio (16-5) forced Reggie Harrison to pop up to Hannah Adams at second for the final out.
Lorenz blew the game open in the fourth inning with her second grand slam of the season. Jordan Matthews reached via an error by Niu at first to start the inning, but back-to-back two-out singles by Alex Voss and Hannah Adams loaded the bases and extended the inning for Lorenz’s at-bat.
The Gators struck for a single run in the sixth to extend the lead out to 6-1. Lorenz started with an infield single to the right side and DeWitt followed with her 13th double of the season to plate Lorenz.
The Bulldogs attempted a seventh inning rally and managed to plate one run to close down the Gators lead to 6-2.
???????Ocasio finished the game with seven strikeouts on 104 pitches for her 10th complete-game of the season.
Game Two | W, 3-0
Florida pushed across the first run of the series finale in the top of the third inning. Reynoso reached with a leadoff walk and advanced to third on a pair of grounders back to MSU starting pitcher Holly Ward (12-6). Reynoso scored to give UF the 1-0 lead when Davidson’s throw down to third dribbled into left field.
The Gators plated two more runs in the top of the seventh to close out the scoring. Ocasio reached on an error by Emily Heimberger at second to start the inning. Jaimie Hoover picked up the first hit of the game with a double off the wall in right field that scored Ocasio from first.
Hoover advanced to third on the throw home, which set up Janell Wheaton for her second sacrifice fly of the season. The pair of runs pushed the Florida lead out to 3-0.
???????Barnhill finished the game with five strikeouts on 98 pitches and only relinquished three hits in the winning effort.
The Gators return home to Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium Wednesday, April 25, for the second installment of the Fresh from Florida Sunshine Showdown against No. 10 Florida State at 6 p.m.
On the significance of a series sweep on the road…
“The important part is that we have the ability to sweep a really good team on the road during a huge weekend for them that had record attendance, with great atmosphere and energy. I was proud of our players for being able to really show their toughness and wow, what a big hit Jaimie Hoover had there at the end.”
Florida extended the all-time series lead over Mississippi State to 36-19 and 17-8 while on the road.
The team improved to 19-6 over Top 25 opponents.
The Gators scored first for the 37th time and now holds 35-2 when scoring first.
Amanda Lorenz hit her seventh home run of the season in the first game.
Lorenz belted her second grand slam of the season in the fourth inning against the Bulldogs.
UF scored four runs in the fourth inning of the first game of the doubleheader and has now scored four or more runs in an inning 27 times this season.
The team picked up its 26th shutout of the season in the series finale and it’s the 10th shutout over a Top 25 team.