Behind a no-hitter and three home runs, Florida continued its winning ways on Wednesday night at home.
No. 1 Florida (24-0) beat South Dakota (2-20) in back-to-back games to sweep its doubleheader at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium. UF picked apart its opponent in the first game, winning 9-0 in the sixth inning.
In the second game, junior Delanie Gourley threw the second no-hitter of her career, and the Gators scored eight runs before the USD defense recorded an out and won 9-0.
Kirsti Merritt carried the Gators’ offense in Game 1. The senior hit a sacrifice fly, was hit by a pitch and hit a pair of two-run home runs. The first was a low-flying liner over the left-field wall. The second was a towering shot flying 30 to 40 feet past the left-field fence.
"The second one I knew was out right away," Merritt said. "The first one was kind of one of those line drives. You always like to see (those) go over the fence."
The Gators led 6-0 going into the bottom of the sixth. With Merritt and sophomore Janell Wheaton on second, sophomore Kayli Kvistad strolled up and hit a long fly ball over the right-field fence. The home run ended the game, as the Gators eclipsed the eight-run rule.
Freshman Kelly Barnhill took command of the mound for Florida. She pitched five innings and gave up just one hit, one walk and struck out seven.
The Gators piled it on in the second game behind Gourley’s pitching performance.
Senior Kelsey Stewart tripled to start the bottom of the first. Two batters later, Wheaton walked with the bases loaded to put the Gators up 1-0. The next batter, Kvistad, knocked a base hit up the middle, driving in two runners. She tried to steal second base during the next at bat and got caught in a jam, distracting USD’s players while the runner on third scored.
The Coyotes’ pitchers walked five batters in the first inning, and by the third out, the Gators were up 9-0.
In the circle, Gourley’s no hitter was her first since her freshman year. Only one runner reached base for USD after being hit by a pitch in the second inning.
"It’s always exciting to reach an accomplishment like that," Gourley said. "It was fun how excited the rest of my team was for me."
Florida’s competition will take a step up this weekend, as the Gators travel to No. 3 Auburn for a three-game series beginning Saturday at 8:30 p.m. It’ll be UF’s Southeastern Conference opener.
"We talk more about the Florida Gators more than we talk about our opponents," Walton said.
"So, next game’s our first SEC game on the road at Auburn. But to our team, it’s really not that. It’s really more about us doing what we continue to do."