Florida’s softball team got its stark-white uniforms plenty dirty on Wednesday night.
The Gators hit, ran and slid their way around the diamond like it was a carousel, reaching base safely in nine of 10 total offensive innings to defeat Oakland in both tilts of a doubleheader, 6-2 and 10-0.
One of the most notable factors about Florida’s softball team this season is its deep roster.
However, pitching paced Florida to start the evening.
Junior pitcher Kelly Barnhill played mind games with Oakland’s batters in Game 1 of the twinbill. Her rise ball mystified almost all who approached the plate, striking out the side in three of her first four innings. She pitched 5.2 total innings, giving up one hit and no runs in addition to 15 strikeouts to pick up her third win of the season.
The Gators gave Barnhill early run support in the bottom of the first inning. Oakland pitcher Chelsea Wiggins walked three of her first four batters, loading the bases for designated player Danielle Romanello. The freshman skied a sacrifice fly into deep center field to score outfielder Amanda Lorenz.
“It’s a pitcher’s dream going out in the second inning of a game and you’ve already got a lead,” coach Tim Walton said. “It loosens up the defense. It loosens up the pitching staff, but also loosens up the rest of the offense.”
Wiggins didn’t allow another run until the fifth inning but found herself in several tough situations. A Florida player reached base safely in all six innings in which the Gators batted in Game 1.
But finally in the fifth inning, Florida broke through. Two-RBI singles from catcher Jordan Roberts and second baseman Hannah Adams highlighted a five-run frame to put the game out of reach, 6-0.
Freshman Natalie Lugo nearly secured the shutout but gave up a two-run home run with two outs in the top of the seventh to Oakland’s third baseman Madison Jones.
However, the Grizzlies weren’t able to carry that offensive momentum into the second game.
Left-hander Katie Chronister worked through four innings, giving up one hit, two walks and striking out five on 67 pitches. She also struck out the side for the first time in her collegiate career in the top of the third.
The Gators’ offense, on the other hand, couldn’t stop scoring. Six different players tallied RBIs and eight different players scored, as UF raced out to 10-0 lead through three innings.
“Overall it’s about having those consistent runs,” Walton said. “We batted around again today a couple times. We’re disciplined enough at the plate to be — one through nine — pretty consistent.”
Lorenz led off the game with a triple and was driven in on the subsequent at-bat when third baseman Nicole DeWitt punched a blooper into shallow left field, giving UF another 1-0 lead in the first.
Florida came back in the bottom of the second with a strong, seven-run inning.
Oakland second baseman Jessie Munson committed a pair of errors to keep the frame alive and allowed three runs, two unearned. Another two-RBI single by Jordan, this time with two outs, scored first baseman Kayli Kvistad and outfielder Jordan Matthews and put the game in run-rule territory.
Kvistad added a two more runs in the third when she scorched a double up the left-center gap, scoring DeWitt and Adams.
It set the stage for Lugo to close out her second game of the night. Walton said he’s looking for more opportunities to get the freshman involved.
“It’s going to be important for her to get out there on the mound as many times as possible and be able to really locate her pitches and understand how to change speeds when she needs to.”