Nicole DeWitt

Third baseman Nicole DeWitt homered in her lone at-bat in Friday night's 3-1 win over South Carolina. 

Alan Alvarez de Sotomayor / Alligator Staff

With the bases empty in the bottom of the third inning, UF third baseman Nicole DeWitt greeted a 1-0 pitch left over the middle of the plate with barrel of her bat.

The senior launched a line drive to deep left center. However, South Carolina right fielder Tiara Duffy was tracking the ball’s flight.

Duffy raced to the wall and stretched out her glove. The ball sailed just inches out of the right fielder’s reach and disappeared behind the wall for a home run, DeWitt’s ninth of the season.

The solo blast gave No. 6 Florida a three-run lead as it saw out an eventual 3-1 victory over No. 11 South Carolina at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium on Friday night.

UF (35-7, 10-3 SEC) started the game strong in both halves of the first inning.
In the top of the frame, pitcher Kelly Barnhill struck out the side, causing each player at the top of South Carolina’s lineup to go down swinging.

In the bottom of the inning, UF was able to manufacture a one-run lead.
Leadoff batter Hannah Adams got on base with a four-pitch walk and was followed by Amanda Lorenz, who singled to put runners on first and second. A sacrifice bunt by DeWitt advanced her teammates into scoring position.

With two outs and Aleshia Ocasio at the plate, a low pitch from the Gamecocks’ Cayla Drotar snuck between the legs of catcher Anna Vest for a passed ball. Adams dashed home, just beating Drotar to the plate to pick up the night’s opening run.

“Us getting the run in the first... was very important,” UF coach Tim Walton said. “It definitely changes the pulse of the hitters going up there with the lead.”

Florida made it 2-0 in the bottom of the second off the bat of center fielder Alex Voss. Normally a slap hitter who produces ground balls, the Coral Springs, Florida, native approached the plate with shortstop Sophia Reynoso on second and the outfield playing in close.

Voss responded by pounding a 2-2 pitch over the head Kennedy Clark in left field, bringing Reynoso around to score. It was Voss’ ninth hit and first RBI of the season.

With a lead for nearly the entire contest, Barnhill nearly pitched her sixth no-hitter of the year. The junior picked up her 18th win by striking out 13 and walking three.

Clark nearly recorded a hit in the fifth inning, smack a high-arching fly ball inside the foul line in left field, but Lorenz made a diving play to rob South Carolina (34-8, 8-5 SEC) of its first hit.

The Gamecocks’ only hit came in the bottom of the seventh with one out.
After plunking Clark on the previous at-bat, Barnhill gave up an RBI double to Duffy through the gap in right-center field, bringing the tying run to the plate.
However, Barnhill came right back and struck out the final two batters to end the game.

“It shows she’s human to give up a run and a hit,” Walton said. “But I thought she really did good job of keeping her rise ball in and out of the strike zone on different planes.”

The Gators and the Gamecocks will finish their series on Saturday with a doubleheader. First pitch is slated for noon with Ocasio taking the circle for UF.

Follow Mark Stine on Twitter @mstinejr and contact him at [email protected].

Mark Stine is a women's soccer writer for the Independent Florida Alligator. He's a junior at UF and has written men's tennis and cross country in the past.