The No. 2 overall seed Gator softball team began play at home in its NCAA Regional with an 8-0 run-rule win over Bethune-Cookman. Kelly Barnhill and Aleshia Ocasio combined for the Gators’ eighth no-hitter of the season. Offensively, pinch-hitter Jaimie Hoover led Florida with five RBI on two hits including a three-run home run in the second inning. Nicole DeWitt added two RBI with her 14th home run of the season to seal the mercy-rule victory.
Bethune-Cookman (31-25) was unable to fire back at the Gators offense Friday night. The no-hitter led the Gators to a nation-leading 29th shutout of the season. Barnhill (27-1) struck out 10 batters in four innings, helping Florida improve to 22-0 when the team tallies 10 or more strikeouts in a game. The Gators also shut out its first opponent with a no-hitter when opening regional play last season.
Although the sophomore is now batting .328 this season, Hoover started the game waiting in the dugout. With power-hitting in mind, Gator coach Tim Walton replaced center fielder Alex Voss with runners at first and third base.
“Alex Voss is not going to hit a three-run homer, but she is going to provide us with great defense and leadership to start the game. We started with our best defense and then adjusted to our best offense as needed — and we can go back to our best defense,” Walton said.
Hoover also left her mark in the bottom of the third with a two-RBI single into center field. Hoover succeeded both times while facing the pressure of two outs with runners in scoring position. The pitching ability of her team and her coach’s decision did not surprise her. However, she was happy to see her first hit fly over the wall.
“It knew it was going out,” Hoover said. “But I was just so excited.”
Florida returns to the field to play the Ohio State Buckeyes on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. The Gators are 2-0 all-time versus the Big Ten opponent. Ohio State won 3-1 versus South Florida (USF) to open regional play.