With one pitch, eight months of waiting was over. The second ranked Florida Gator softball team started its 2018 campaign off to a good start Friday, winning 9-0 against the Illinois State Redbirds (0-3) at a tournament being held in Tampa this weekend.
Exceeding Both Ways
The crowd at the USF Wilson-DeMarini Tournament in Tampa were still getting to their seats when the Gators began their offensive domination. A single by Sophia Reynoso scored a speedy Aleshia Ocasio, who had an excellent game.
Ocasio was commanding from the plate as well as in the circle. Recording eight strikeouts, zero hits and no walks on only 63 pitches; the Redbirds could not find a solution to Ocasio.
Ocasio’s near perfect game would be a big reason why Florida would allow only one hit and shut out Illinois State in their season opener.
Ocasio also was a major factor offensively; she drew a walk in the second inning and would be driven in by Reynoso’s single for the first run of Florida’s 2018 campaign. Ocasio also crushed a triple to left center in the seventh inning that would lead to a four-run inning.
Ocasio was aggressive on the mound but patient at the plate — leading to her spectacular performance.
Patience and Excellence
The team followed Ocasio’s lead as Florida recorded 11 hits, two triples and a home run. Illinois State’s Morgan Day — a freshman pitcher making her collegiate debut — had a hard time finishing counts as she walked seven and threw 145 pitches.
The Gators took advantage of the freshman pitcher as they simply waited for Day to give them their pitch. While UF stayed patient and got solid hits, ISU was very aggressive at the plate, and it had the opposite result. The Redbirds did not record a hit until the last inning and struck out 13 times.
The Gators are a veteran team with lots of experience. Returning eight starters for their season opener, it was no secret that the strength of the team comes from the upperclassmen. But that does not mean younger players won’t contribute.
Starting freshman Hannah Adams at second base and pinch-hitting another freshman Jordan Matthews in big moments, head coach Tim Walton showed confidence in his younger players, and it paid off.
Adams recorded an RBI double to left-center field for her first collegiate hit while looking like a seasoned veteran defensively.
— Gators Softball (@GatorsSB) February 9, 2018
Matthews had fewer opportunities but made the best of them. Coming into the game, Walton was open about looking to get his 5-foot-10 freshman in as much as he can.
Walton had said that while the team has lost some speed, he expects more power from his lineup, but up to this point, the power did not seem prevalent.
Until Mattews stepped to the plate in the final inning.
Matthews, like the rest of her team, remained patient and waited for her pitch. When she saw what she wanted, she didn’t hesitate — crushing the ball deep into left field for a three-run home run, icing the game for UF. A first hit to remember.
With this win, the Gators have won the last eight games against the Redbirds. Next up, two more games on Saturday in the tournament and two more on Sunday.