Junior outfielder Kirsti Merritt made a leaping grab of what would have been a North Carolina State home run to take the lead in the game in the top of the seventh, and doubled up a runner at first to boot, to help preserve the complete game shutout for freshman pitcher Aleshia Ocasio in a 1-0 win for the Florida Gators in their home opener. This win improves UF’s record to 7-0.
The entire crowd knew it was going to be a great night. A commemorative video of last year’s national championship team played on the video board before the game and the weather was great. Even starting pitcher Aleshia Ocasio was excited to finally make her home debut in Gainesville.
“It felt really good actually,” Ocasio said, “the family came out here and supported. To be with my girls out there and the energy was up so it felt really nice.”
The freshman threw her first career complete game shutout in a game where the Gator offense struggled. NC State pitcher Emily Weiman only allowed two hits and the only run allowed come off an error. Ocasio also allowed two hits but struck out 12 batters. Florida coach Tim Walton was impressed with the freshman’s performance.
“You can see the movement on the pitches that she has. Other than the last two balls that they put in play, the base hit to left and the ball to center, a lot of swing and misses and different swings.”
The ball to center would have been a two-run home run by NC State’s Tyler Ross, but Merritt had her own agenda. The outfielder said they practice wall catches on a regular basis.
“Well we practice these almost everyday at practice, so we wanted it to look as routine as possible.”
The Gators are not close to finished this weekend. Florida softball has double-headers today and tomorrow against NC State and Iowa.
For full audio clips of above quotes and more, click below: