Aleshia Ocasio

Senior Aleshia Ocasio uncorked a homerun and pitched a complete game in UF's run-rule victory over UGA.

Jordan Roberts stepped into the batter’s box as a pinch hitter in the Women’s College World Series.

In the bottom of the fourth with a runner on third, she replaced the designated player Jordan Matthews, the hero from the Florida Gators’ Super Regional finale against Texas A&M, and had the opportunity to respond to a home run by Georgia’s Alyssa DiCarlo from an inning earlier.

Roberts looked at a first-pitch ball then blasted an offering from UGA pitcher Kylie Bass over the grandstand in left-center field to extend UF’s lead to 8-3.

The homer put Thursday night’s game out of reach, as the Gators (56-9) hit three home runs en route to victory over the Bulldogs (48-12). Florida moved into the winner’s bracket to face UCLA on Friday night at 9:30, and Georgia dropped into elimination play with Florida State scheduled for 2:30 p.m. Saturday.

However, UF found itself victim of the long ball to start its World Series.

Senior Aleshia Ocasio got the start in the circle for the Gators, as SEC Pitcher of the Year Kelly Barnhill was stashed away for the matchup with the Bruins.

“He (Walton) told us last night that Le Le was going to get the start in the circle,” third baseman Nicole DeWitt said. “We always had faith in Le Le that she can start games no matter who we’re playing.”

UGA left fielder Cortni Emanuel led off the game with a single then proceeded to steal second with one out. During the steal, UF shortstop Sophia Reynoso got called for obstruction and applied a hard tag, much to the chagrin of Emanuel. Emanuel and Reynoso exchanged words before play resumed.

Second baseman Justice Milz stepped up and gave the Bulldogs a 2-0 advantage. She pounded a 2-2 pitch from Ocasio over the left-center fence for her 15th homer of the year.

But in the bottom of the first, Florida responded against Georgia starter Mary Wilson Avant by loading the bases for Matthews with one out.

She launched the ball over the head of Emanuel for a double, scoring teammates DeWitt and first baseman Kayli Kvistad to knot the score at two-apiece.

Ocasio came to the plate next and made up for her two-run mistake by belting a three-run bomb of her own, giving the Gators a lead it would never relinquish.

On the rubber, the senior only allowed one more run, a solo home run by Alyssa DiCarlo, and struck out seven Bulldogs in a complete-game performance.

“My offense has my back,” Ocasio said in a television interview. “They told me repeatedly, and that helped me stay come and collected.”

Even though she’s given up 15 home runs this season, Ocasio has only walked 18 batters and relinquished just one against UGA. Her strikeout-to-walk ratio for 2018 is a staggering 10.3.

Florida loaded the bases again with one out in the bottom of the second, and catcher Janell Wheaton grounded into a fielder’s choice to secure one run in the inning. Avant’s night ended after giving her sixth run, and Bass entered.

UF finished 15-19 with advancement opportunities and 5-6 with runners on third and less than two outs.

Bass wouldn’t concede until Roberts’ blast in the fourth. She also gave up a solo shot to UF second baseman Hannah Adams to lead off the bottom of the fifth.

UGA’s Amanda Ablan then relieve Bass but walked all three of her batters to load the bases. Freshman Keara Napoli would finish the game for the Bulldogs.

With the score 9-3, two runs from a mercy rule, Napoli’s first WCWS experience would come by causing a fly out from DeWitt then walking in Kvistad and hitting Wheaton, to finish the contest.  

You can follow Mark Stine on Twitter @mstinejr or contact him at [email protected].

Mark Stine is sports editor for the Independent Florida Alligator. He's a senior at UF and has written softball, women's soccer, men's tennis and cross country in the past.