Nicole DeWitt has a thing for the postseason.
The sophomore had already scored four times during the weekend’s NCAA Regional Tournament, but her last hit sent Florida (56-5) to its fourth-straight Super Regional.
In the fourth inning, the lefty pulled a 1-0 pitch high over the right-field fence and into a crowd of fans watching from the grass.
A three-run home run.
“I was just trying to make an adjustment from the two previous at-bats that I had,” DeWitt said.
“I just tried to get out of it and then hit a line drive, hit something hard.
“And I got a hold of one.”
That home run gave No. 1 seed Florida an eight-run lead, and the Gators eventually defeated UCF (38-22) 8-0 on Sunday at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium, advancing UF to the NCAA Super Regionals.
Florida took advantage of its first chance to score.
In the bottom of the second, senior Kirsti Merritt hit a leadoff double, a liner into the left-center gap. UCF pitcher and All-American Shelby Turnier was able to retire UF’s next two batters on a popup and groundout, but then she gave up back-to-back walks to load the bases.
UF’s next hitter, senior Taylore Fuller, hit a chopping groundball between third and shortstop with enough speed to squeak into the outfield.
Kirsti Merritt scored easily while her teammate behind her, Aubree Munro, slid just in time to avoid the catcher’s mitt and give the Gators a 2-0 lead.
“We always talk about getting the momentum early,” Fuller said, “and allowing our pitchers to breathe a little.”
Aleshia Ocasio had an impressive day in the circle. She struck out all three Knights swinging in a quick top of the fourth, and allowed just three hits and struck out seven batters in five innings.
“She threw her harder pitches a little bit better and she didn’t leave that many pitches over the plate,” coach Tim Walton said. “(She) did a really good job.”
Florida sealed the win in the bottom of the fourth.
With the bases loaded, Amanda Lorenz’s popup dropped safely in center field, giving Lorenz and RBI-single and the Gators a three-run lead.
After a flyout, the bases were still loaded for Merritt, who drew a walk to put Florida up 4-0. But as Fuller trotted home, Kelsey Stewart, approaching third base, decided to gamble.
She stole home.
“The pitcher wasn’t paying attention,” Stewart said, “and, actually when I rounded third, I was like, ‘How can I like blend in like I’m supposed to be going four?’”
Stewart followed Fuller to home plate before anyone had noticed, giving the Gators a free fifth run.
“We expect that from Stewart, she’s smart on the bases,” Fuller said. “You can’t ever take your eye off of her, she’s gonna take that base.”
One pitch after Stewart stole home, DeWitt hit her three-run bomb to right, giving the Gators eight runs, enough to run-rule the Knights.
In the game’s final at-bats, Ocasio forced a popout and two flyouts to end UCF’s season.
Florida will take the field against either Georgia or Oklahoma State in this weekend’s Super Regional in Gainesville with dates and times still to be determined.
Contact Matt Brannon at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @MattB_727.
UF's Kirsti Merritt crosses home plate to score the lone run of the game in the eighth inning of Florida softball's 1-0 win against Florida Atlantic during the NCAA Regional finals on May 17, 2015, at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium.