In the bottom of the fifth inning, the Florida softball team had an opportunity to end the game early against the North Texas Mean Green.

UF wasn’t able to capitalize, leaving two runners stranded and moving the game into a sixth inning with the Gators up 7-0.

In the bottom of the sixth, however, Janell Wheaton would not let another opportunity slip through her team’s grasp.

Leading off the inning, the junior catcher belted a shot to right center field and sped to second, putting the team in early scoring position.

That shot – along with two others to combine for a 3-3 night – provided enough to earn a series-opening win and its 47th of the year for the top-ranked team in the nation.

The Gators (47-5, 20-3 SEC) did most of their damage in the middle innings when they ripped off seven runs in the third and fourth frames combined.

The scoring began when Wheaton hit a pitch deep to left center field off the arm of senior pitcher Jessica Elder. The base knock allowed two runners to score and gave the Gators an early 2-0 lead.

In the very next inning for the Gators offense, the Mean Green (24-28) could not find an answer to the scoring swarm.   

With two outs, Florida tallied five consecutive runs to blow the game wide open. Wheaton, Amanda Lorenz, Nicole DeWitt and senior Chelsea Herndon all earned RBI’s in the frame.

By the time the inning concluded, five hits were enough to score five runs for Florida. The Mean Green inserted senior pitcher Stacy Underwood hoping to slow down its opponent, but the Gators would score two more runs after that.

In the circle for Florida, senior Delanie Gourley opened her final series at home to a crowd of over 1,500 fans.

She delivered four innings shutout innings and only allowed one hit.

The Mean Green never managed to develop a real scoring opportunity throughout the game other than the top of the fifth inning when junior Aleshia Ocasio came in to relieve Gourley.

However, Ocasio squashed any chance of North Texas scoring after striking out Lindsay Gregory with runners at first and third base.

Just five days and three games remain until the SEC Tournament, where the Gators will attempt to become conference tournament champions for the first time since 2013.

UF takes on North Texas in the second contest of their three-game series on Saturday afternoon at 1 p.m. The team will also celebrate its seniors who are playing in their final weekend series at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium.

Contact Skyler Lebron at slebron@alligator.org and follow him on Twitter @SkylerLebron.

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