The Florida softball team has shown so far through just two games of this NCAA Regional that it can win in different ways, that its strengths are deep and befitting of a national contender.
In the opener Friday night, Florida pitchers Kelly Barnhill and Aleshia Ocasio combined for a no-hitter and 14 strikeouts against Bethune-Cookman. On Saturday against Ohio State, the No. 2-seeded Gators needed their bats, and the lineup delivered with 10 runs over the final two innings.
With that, host Florida secured a come-from-behind 10-2 win over the Buckeyes and advanced to the finals of the NCAA Gainesville Regional at Katie Seashole Stadium.
The Gators (52-8) will rematch with Ohio State on Sunday at noon after the Buckeyes took down USF in an elimination game Saturday evening. Ohio State would need two wins in the double-elimination bracket to prevail while the Gators need just one more victory to move on to the NCAA Super Regionals.
— Gators Softball (@GatorsSB) May 19, 2018
Barnhill (28-1) got the start again Saturday, giving up 2 runs (1 earned) on 3 hits and 2 walks with 9 strikeouts over 5 1/3 innings. Ocasio got the final 2 outs for her second save of the season.
Again, though, the story of this win was the offense.
Ohio State (35-15) led 2-0 entering the bottom of the fifth inning before Florida patiently took control.
The Buckeyes would issue 15 walks in the game, including 8 over the final two innings.
Jordan Matthews and Ocasio drew walks sandwiched around the first out in the bottom of the fifth and Jordan Roberts reached on an error to load the bases.
Jaimie Hoover then singled up the middle to plate the Gators’ first run and two batters later SEC Player of the Year Amanda Lorenz delivered a 2-out, 2-run single through the left side to put the hosts ahead for the first time.
In the sixth, Ohio State starter Shelby McCombs walked Matthews on four pitches to lead off the frame and was pulled from the game. Morgan Ray took over on the mound and promptly walked Janell Wheaton on six pitches and gave up a bunt single to Ocasio to load the bases.
Sophia Reynoso and Hoover then drew back-to-back to plate 2 more runs, Ocasio scored on a wild pitch, Hannah Adams followed with an RBI groundout, Lorenz knocked an RBI single up the middle, Matthews later singled in another run, Wheaton drew a walk from fresh reliever Kat Duvall to load the bases yet again and Ocasio ended the game with an RBI single through the right side to make it 10-2, securing the 8-run mercy rule.
Lorenz finished 2 for 3 with 2 walks and 3 RBI, Ocasio was 2 for 4 with an RBI and a run and Hoover was 1 for 1 with 3 walks, 2 RBI and 2 runs.
Florida has now won nine straight games and 18 of its past 19.