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Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Florida softball pitching staff dominating heading into home opener

<p>Delanie Gourley pitches during Florida's 14-10 loss to LSU on March 14, 2015, at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium.</p>

Delanie Gourley pitches during Florida's 14-10 loss to LSU on March 14, 2015, at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium.

The Florida softball team is off to a scorching start in 2016.

The Gators swept all four games at the USF Wilson-DeMarini Tournament last weekend, run-ruling the quartet by a combined score of 38-1. It was the first time since 2012 Florida has won its first three games via run-rule.

UF will look to continue its winning streak when it plays a doubleheader against Jacksonville today. Game 1 is set for 5 p.m. at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium.

While Florida’s bats have thrived, its weekend dominance can be attributed in large part to the arms of pitchers Delanie Gourley, Kelly Barnhill and Aleshia Ocasio.

With a combined earned-run average of 0.33 over 21 innings thus far, the trio allowed just nine hits in 72 at-bats.

Opposing batters are hitting a feeble .125 over that span.

And of the nine hits, seven were singles and two were doubles.

The only run this pitching staff allowed came in the bottom of the third inning against USF in the final game of the tournament.

Gourley established the tone for the weekend on Friday night against Illinois State.

The junior threw the third one-hitter of her career, securing a shutout.

On Saturday, Barnhill suffocated Michigan, striking out two batters without surrendering a walk.

Ocasio threw a complete-game shutout against Virginia Tech in the first game of Sunday’s doubleheader, striking out seven and walking one. In the second game against USF, Barnhill and Gourley combined to allow two hits and one run with seven strikeouts.

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"I thought Delanie was good the first day, not great," coach Tim Walton said. "On Sunday she was great. I thought she was really … masterful in some of the things she did."

It is no surprise that Florida’s pitching staff has been good this season.

With many players returning from last season’s 60-win team, Florida was predicted to contend for another championship in 2016.

However, what gives reason for pause is just how dominant they have been up to this point despite the loss of star pitcher Lauren Haeger, who was the ace on a pitching staff that boasted the fifth-best ERA in the nation.

Most astonishing, perhaps, was the way the Gators — particularly freshman Barnhill — dominated the No. 2 ranked Wolverines.

"She does change speeds. Her spin is really, really good," Walton said of Barnhill.

"They’re a really good hitting team. That’s the one thing that goes unnoticed when you watch a team like Michigan. We faced them and shut them out, but nobody else did."

Contact Brian Lee at blee@alligator.org and follow him on Twitter @brianlee_17.

Delanie Gourley pitches during Florida's 14-10 loss to LSU on March 14, 2015, at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium.

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