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Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Gators deliver offensive onslaught, cruise to victory over South Carolina

Florida defeated South Carolina 11-6

Gators softball sophomore catcher Jocelyn Erickson in her swinging motion during the team's 10-0 win over the Indiana Hoosiers on Sunday, March 17, 2024.
Gators softball sophomore catcher Jocelyn Erickson in her swinging motion during the team's 10-0 win over the Indiana Hoosiers on Sunday, March 17, 2024.

Florida junior left fielder Korbe Otis has cemented herself as a key cog of the Gators lineup, and she delivered another stellar performance on Friday.

Otis drew a walk on her first at-bat, and she delivered a double into right center on her second at-bat in the second inning that gave Florida a 3-0 lead.

After scoring UF’s fifth run of the game in the second, Otis was up again in the bottom of the third with the bases loaded.

And Otis supplied the Gators with another big-time hit, sending a 3-run double to deep right center, putting Florida up 8-1.

“It's all about thinking every new pitch is a new game,” Otis said. “Every pitch you see, you have a chance to win or lose.”

Otis’ 4-RBI day helped drive the No. 10 Gators (36-9, 11-5 SEC) to a 11-6 Game 1 victory over South Carolina (25-20, 5-11 SEC).

The Gators offense came out the gate strong in the first inning, as sophomore catcher Jocelyn Erickson hit a scorcher double right over the first baseman’s head, scoring senior sophomore Skylar Wallace.

Florida kept rolling in the bottom of the second inning, as the entire order hit and the Gators scored 4 runs.

The inning started strong as senior right fielder Katie Kistler drew a four-pitch walk from South Carolina sophomore starting pitcher Jori Heard.

Freshman third baseman Ariel Kowalewski doubled, putting both runners in scoring position, before freshman second baseman Mia Williams hit a blooper single into left to score Kistler and give the Gators a 2-0 lead.

The lead grew to 3-0 two batters later, when Otis’ double scored Kowalewski.

The bases were then loaded after Wallace walked, and another Gator run was scored when South Carolina freshman relief pitcher Sage Mardjetko hit Erickson on the shoulder, scoring Williams and making it a 4-0 ballgame.

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Mardjetko then walked junior designated player Reagan Walsh, scoring Otis to put the Gators up 5-0 before Kistler struck out to end the second.

“Attacking their pitching was huge,” Erickson said. “We knew we had to get ahead early, and we did that.”

The Gamecocks got on the board in the top of the third, when senior third baseman Zoe Laneaux hit a single up the middle to score senior center fielder Riley Blampied.

However, Florida freshman starting pitcher Keagan Rothrock stayed composed, forcing a groundout to end the top of the third as the Gamecocks left two runners on base.

In the bottom of the third, Florida once again hit around the order, scoring 6 runs.

The Gators the bases once again, before Otis delivered a three-RBI double to right center, scoring senior utility player Emily Wilkie, junior center fielder Kendra Falby and Kowalewski.

“I think having consistent bats up and down the lineup was huge today,” Otis said. “Everyone was putting great swings on the ball.”

Despite another South Carolina pitching change, the Gators once again loaded the bases.

Walsh delivered a two-RBI single to left, scoring Otis and Wallace to bring her up to 50 RBI’s on the season.

Wilkie then made it a 10-run Gator lead with an RBI single that scored Erickson, before Kowalewski grounded out to end the inning.

South Carolina put a dent in the lead in the top of the fourth, when senior designated player Aniyah Black hit a 2-run home run to deep left.

A few more hits ended Rothrock’s day in the fourth, as she went three innings with only one strikeout.

Florida called on senior relief pitcher Mackenzie Wooten, who calmed down the Gamecocks comeback attempt. Wooten only allowed one run, which came on a fielder's choice groundout in the bottom of the fourth that scored South Carolina junior catcher Giulia Desiderio.

After a scoreless fifth inning, Florida put freshman relief pitcher Olivia Miller in the circle to start the sixth.

Miller found herself in a jam with the bases loaded, and allowed two runs on back-to-back sacrifice flies by Laneaux and senior first baseman Jen Cummings before shutting the door on the Gamecocks with a strikeout.

However, she recovered in the top of the seventh, striking out her first two batters and forcing a game-ending pop-out to give UF the win.

“Keeping our pitchers up so they could make good pitches was huge,” Erickson said. “And our defense made a lot of good plays.”

Florida will face South Carolina in Game 2 of the series on Saturday at 12 p.m.

Contact Max Bernstein at mbernstein@alligator.org. Follow him on X @maxbernstein23.

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