No. 1 Florida came to Tiger Park with the country’s lowest ERA, and the Gators exceeded even their lofty standards Friday.
Florida, which entered with an ERA of 0.87, held No. 7 LSU scoreless for 16 innings to sweep a doubleheader with consecutive 3-0 victories. The second game took nine innings.
Aleshia Ocasio (12-1) won both games, pitching a five-hitter in the first and finishing the second with 2.2 perfect innings; Delanie Gourley shut out the Tigers for 6.1 innings before running into a control issue.
“They did a really good job of making pitches when they had to,” Florida coach Tim Walton said. “The key was they weren’t going to give in to some of the power hitters.”
The two-time defending national champions have held LSU scoreless for 23 consecutive innings, dating to a 4-0 win the Women’s College World Series last May.
Florida (32-1, 7-1 Southeastern Conference) and LSU (26-7, 3-5) will complete the series at 11 a.m. Saturday on ESPN2.
Nicole DeWitt’s three-run homer off Allie Walljasper (4-4) with two outs in the ninth inning was the difference in the second game. Walljasper had held Florida scoreless on one hit and retired 13 consecutive batters entering the ninth.
“What a great job by Allie Walljasper,” Walton said. “She flat out threw the heck out of the ball.”
Walljasper hit Taylore Fuller leading off the ninth and, two outs later, Kirsti Merritt singled ahead of DeWitt’s homer to right-center.
“I was just trying to get the runs in, no matter what it took,” DeWitt said. “I was just trying to hit it in the gap, hit it where they weren’t.”
It was the fourth homer of the season for the sophomore infielder.
“You can recruit, but you don’t know what kind of DNA you have in some kids,” Walton said. “For her to be able to hit a home run like that says a lot about how tough she really is.”
LSU left 11 runners on base in the second game.
The Tigers loaded the bases with two outs in the fourth, but Gourley struck out Bailey Landry.
LSU squandered another prime opportunity in the sixth. Constance Quinn led off with a walk and went to second on Amber Serrett’s sacrifice.
Elyse Thornhill blooped a single to shallow right, and coach Beth Torina held Quinn at third while Thornhill took second on the throw home.
Sandra Simmons’ bunt was fielded by catcher Aubree Munro just in front of the plate, and she threw out Simmons as the runners held. Then Landry struck out.
With one out in the seventh, Bianka Bell battled back from a 0-2 count to draw a walk and Sahvanna Jaquish walked on four pitches before Gourley fell behind Kellsi Kloss 1-0.
Walton brought in Ocasio and she went to 3-0 on Kloss before throwing a strike.
“I saw the ball pretty well off of her in the first game,” said Kloss, who had a single and a walk in three plate appearances. “She threw a really good (breaking) pitch to me, and I probably got a little too anxious.”
Kloss grounded into a double play that led to extra innings.
“That was as big a moment as you have in the game,” Walton said.
In the first game, Ocasio allowed a first-inning single to Jaquish, a double by Serrett and a single by Landry in the fifth and singles to Kloss in the sixth and Simmons in the seventh. She walked three and struck out eight as the Tigers stranded six.
Amanda Lorenz’s RBI double and Kayli Kvistad’s fifth home run of the season led the Gators attack against Carley Hoover (10-2), who went the distance, allowing four hits and five walks and striking out 13.