Thursday, June 7, 2018

2018 Gator Softball: A Year In Review

The Florida Gator softball team entered the 2018 season with a chip on their shoulder after losing in the Women's College World Series Finals the previous season. The Orange and Blue picked up where they left off from last year as they went 56-11 (20-4 SEC) and won both the SEC regular season and tournament championships.

As No. 2 overall seed, the Florida Gators advanced to their fourth WCWS in five years before again having their season end at the hands of No. 4 seeded Oklahoma (57-4) in the loser's bracket. Here's a rundown of Florida's postseason run.

SEC Tournament
As the No. 1 seed in the SEC Tournament, Florida faced off against Alabama (36-20) for the fourth time this season. Having won the series down in Tuscaloosa, the Gators dispatched the Tide in the quarterfinals with a three-run sixth inning to take the game by a score of 5-2.

In the SEC semifinals, the Gators saw rival Tennessee (48-14) for the first time this season and throttled the Vols with a 10-2 run-rule victory. Making their first SEC Championship appearance since 2013, the Gators would be pitted against South Carolina (49-16) for the fourth time this year. Florida swept the Gamecocks down in Gainesville and the result here would be no different as a three-run third inning propelled the Gators to a a 3-1 victory and an SEC tournament title.

NCAA Regionals
Once regional play was under way, the Gators were awarded the No. 2 overall seed and run-ruled both Bethune-Cookman (31-25) and Ohio State (36-16) in their first two games. The Gators would again face the Buckeyes for the regional title and senior Aleshia Ocasio would toss a no-hitter to send Florida to super regionals for the sixth straight season.

NCAA Super Regionals
In super regionals, No. 2 Florida had a very favorable matchup against No. 15 Texas A&M (44-18). Despite sweeping the Aggies at home in fairly convincing fashion, the Gators would be pushed to their limits with a WCWS berth on the line.

Game 1 saw Florida enter the bottom of the seventh down 4-2 and score three runs for a stunning walk off victory. Senior catcher Janell Wheaton would be the hero, as she drew a two-out bases loaded walk with the a full count to bring home the winning run.

The Gators would drop Game 2 by the same score of 5-4, setting up a winner-take all matchup in Game 3. Florida again trailed in this game due to a two-out two-run home run from Texas A&M in the top of the seventh. In the bottom of the frame down 3-2, the Gators were down to their last strike of the season as freshman Jordan Matthews faced an 0-2 count with runners on first and second.

After working the count to 2-2, the left-handed Matthews drove an outside pitch to left field for a walk-off home run to send the Gators to Oklahoma City!

Women's College World Series
Back in familiar territory for the second consecutive year, the Gators hooked up with SEC rival No. 7 Georgia (48-12) in the first round of the WCWS. Forgetting about their two losses in Athens, the Gators unleashed the bats on the Dawgs as they run-ruled their rival by a score of 11-3.

In the second round, the Gators took on the No. 3 UCLA Bruins (58-6) in what would become probably the most controversial game of the whole tournament. Florida led this game by a 4-0 margin at one point until a five-spot in the fourth inning helped the Bruins take the lead. This was allowed to happen partially because of a blown call at the plate.

On a foul ball that was hit down the left field line, redshirt sophomore shortstop Sophia Reynoso tracked the ball down and spun around to throw a dart to the plate. Janell Wheaton received the throw at the plate and put the tag on UCLA's runner coming home. The home plate umpire (out of position to make the call), erroneously signaled she was safe at the plate despite replay reviews showing otherwise. Because there is no replay review in the WCWS, it was tough luck for the Gators.

With the inning continuing and the score now 4-2, the next UCLA batter would hit a three-run home run to push it to 5-4. The Bruins would never look back and the Gators would lose a heartbreaker by a final of 6-5.

Needing to win three elimination games just to get to the WCWS Finals, the Gators did not have it the next day against the defending champion No. 4 Oklahoma Sooners. Florida was shut out 2-0 to end both their season and dreams of a third national championship in five years.

Season Accomplishments
Despite a controversial and lackluster ending in Oklahoma City, the 2018 Florida Gator softball teams has much to be proud of. Here are some of the feats they accomplished in 2018:

  • SEC regular season champions for the eighth time in program history and for the fourth straight season.
  • SEC tournament champions for the fourth time in program history.
  • Posted over 50 wins for the 12th time in school history and for the sixth consecutive year.
  • Posted 20 SEC wins for the eighth time in school history and for the second straight year.
  • 30 shutout victories
  • 20 run-rule victories
  • Notched 28 victories over 12 ranked opponents (Part I). They were (at the time): No. 18 Michigan, No. 16 UL-Lafayette (twice), No. 8 Baylor, No. 23 Kentucky (thrice), No. 10/7 Georgia (twice), No. 8/15 Texas A&M (five times)
  • Part II: No. 15/13 Alabama (thrice), No 11/12 South Carolina (four times), No. 19 Mississippi State (thrice), No. 8 Florida State, No. 14 LSU (twice), No. 7 Tennessee 
  • Five series sweeps (Kentucky, Texas A&M, South Carolina, Mississippi State, Missouri)
  • Won their 11th regional title.
  • Reached the Women's College World Series for the ninth time in program history.

Award Winners
After highlighting the team's success, let us now look at the individual Gator players who garnered recognition and accolades for their performances this season:

  • NFCA Southeast All-Region First Team
    • P - Kelly Barnhill
    • 3B - Nicole DeWitt
    • OF - Amanda Lorenz
    • UT/P - Aleshia Ocasio (Senior)
  • NFCA Southeast All-Region Third Team
    • C - Janell Wheaton (Senior)
          • SEC Player of the Year
            • OF - Amanda Lorenz
          • SEC Pitcher of the Year
            • Kelly Barnhill
          • First Team All-SEC
            • P - Kelly Barnhill
            • IF - Nicole DeWitt
            • OF - Amanda Lorenz
            • DP/U - Aleshia Ocasio
          • SEC All-Defensive Team
            • C - Janell Wheaton
            • 2B - Hannah Adams

          Now that we have highlighted the award winners, let us take a look at the stat leaders from the 2018 campaign:

          Hits: Amanda Lorenz (74)

          RBI's: Amanda Lorenz (61)

          Doubles: Amanda Lorenz (19)

          Triples: Amanda Lorenz (4)

          Home Runs: Nicole DeWitt (14)

          Batting Average: Amanda Lorenz (.416)

          Slugging Percentage: Amanda Lorenz (.753)

          On Base Percentage: Amanda Lorenz (.582)

          Stolen Bases: Amanda Lorenz/Hannah Adams (6)

          Runs Scored: Amanda Lorenz (75)

          Total Bases: Amanda Lorenz (134)

          Strikeouts: Aleshia Ocasio (33)

          Walks: Amanda Lorenz (70)

          Hit By Pitch: Nicole DeWitt (14)

          Sacrifice Bunts: Sophia Reynoso (14)

          Sacrifice Flies: Aleshia Ocasio (5)


          Assists: Sophia Reynoso (97)

          Putouts: Janell Wheaton (470)

          Errors: Sophia Reynoso/Kayli Kvistad (5) (Senior)

          Fielding Percentage: Hannah Adams/Jordan Roberts/Jaimie Hoover/Danielle Romanello (1.000) (Sophomores/Freshman)


          Wins: Kelly Barnhill (29)

          Losses: Aleshia Ocasio (7)

          Strikeouts: Kelly Barnhill (324)

          Walks: Kelly Barnhill (76)

          Earned Run Average: Kelly Barnhill (1.08)

          Shutouts: Kelly Barnhill (11)

          Complete Games: Kelly Barnhill (23)

          Saves: Aleshia Ocasio (2)

          Appearances: Kelly Barnhill (41)

          Innings Pitched: Kelly Barnhill (214.1)

          No-Hitters & Perfect Games
          This year the Florida Gators had nine instances where their opponent failed to record a hit. Here's a breakdown of those games:

          • February 14th - In the home opener, Kelly Barnhill gave all 1,310 of the fans in attendance a performance for the ages as she notched 12 strikeouts in her five inning no hitter over the UNF Ospreys.
          • February 24th - Tossing her second no-no of the year, Barnhill struck out nine Iowa State Cyclones as the Gators won in five innings.
          • February 25th - It would be deja vu for Barnhill. In her third no-hitter in February ALONE, the junior right-hander again no-hit Iowa State as she punched out 12 Cyclones in another five-inning Gator win.
          • March 3rd - In the first combined no-hitter of the year for Florida, Kelly Barnhill (6 IP and 13 K's) and Aleshia Ocasio (1 IP and 3 K's) tag-teamed as they struck out 16 batters and no-hit the Baylor Bears in the finale of the Judi Garman Classic.
          • March 9th - In the first game of conference play, Kelly Barnhill continued her dominance over Kentucky as she no-hit the Wildcats for the second straight season.  She fanned 13 of the 22 batters she faced as the game went a full seven innings. It would be her fourth no-hitter of the year.
          • March 21st - Barnhill's fifth and final no-no came against the USF Bulls in a midweek game. She struck out 12 batters as Florida won in five innings.
          • March 28th - Aleshia Ocasio joined Barnhill as a member of the 2018 no-hitter club with a five-inning gem against the FIU Panthers.
          • May 18th - In the regional opener, the Barnhill/Ocasio duo tossed the second combined no-hitter of the season for Florida. Barnhill pitched four innings (with 10 K's) while Ocasio finished out the last two (4 K's) in a run-rule victory.
          • May 20th - As mentioned earlier in the article, Aleshia Ocasio took care of Ohio State in the regional final. In a full seven innings, she struck out 12 Buckeyes and put up a goose egg in the hit column.

          Senior Sendoff
          In their four years playing for the Orange and Blue, the quartet of Aleshia Ocasio, Kayli Kvistad, Nicole DeWitt, and Janell Wheaton embodied a senior class that had experienced many highs and lows.

          From winning the 2015 national championship, to losing on a walk-off in the 2016 super regionals, to losing in the 2017 WCWS Finals, to having a blown call send them to their fate in the 2018 WCWS loser's bracket, these girls have been through it all. In the four years they all played at Florida, the Gators posted an overall record of 230-35 (.867 winning percentage).

          Aleshia Ocasio
          Photo Credits:

          Aleshia was an asset to the Gators the moment she arrived on campus. As a two-way player, Ocasio was a threat from both the pitcher's circle and the batter's box. She finishes her UF pitching career with a 69-13 record, a 1.42 ERA, 10 saves, 532 strikeouts, and 89 walks in 500.1 innings pitched.

          From the offensive side, Aleshia concludes her batting career with a slash line of .278/.357/.434, 111 hits, 10 home runs, 73 RBI's, 17 stolen bases, and a .955 fielding percentage. Her career accolades include:

          • 2015 National Champion
          • 2018, 2017, 2016, and 2015 SEC Regular Season Champion
          • 2018 SEC Tournament Champion
          • 2018, 2017, 2016, & 2015 NFCA All-Southeast Region First Team
          • 2018, 2017, and 2016 All-SEC First Team
          • 2018 & 2016 NFCA First Team All-American 
          • 2017 WCWS All-Tournament Team
          • 2016 USA Softball Player of the Year Top Three Finalist
          • 2015 NFCA Third Team All-American
          • 2015 NFCA Freshman of the Year Top 25 Finalist
          • 2015 All-SEC Freshman Team
          • SEC Pitcher of the Week for March 28, 2016

          Aleshia graduated with a degree in African-American Studies, but will also have an opportunity to play at the next level. In the 2018 National Pro Fastpitch College Draft, the Chicago Bandits selected her with the 10th overall pick in the second round. If she decides to play, Aleshia would be the lone Gator on the Bandits. Thank you for these last four years, Aleshia!

          Kayli Kvistad
          Photo Credits: Twitter

          Kayli saw playing time very early in her career as she worked her way towards the starting job at first base. In her four years in Gainesville, Kayli finishes with a slash line of .323/.496/.547, 190 hits, 113 runs, 32 home runs, 193 RBI's, five stolen bases, and a .993 fielding percentage. Her collegiate honors include:

          • 2015 National Champion
          • 2018, 2017, 2016, and 2015 SEC Regular Season Champion
          • 2018 SEC Tournament Champion
          • 2017 NFCA Third Team All-American
          • 2017 NFCA All-Southeast Region Second Team
          • 2017 & 2016 All-SEC First Team
          • 2017 & 2016 SEC Academic Honor Roll
          • 2017 CoSIDA Academic All-American Second Team
          • SEC Player of the Week for April 25th, 2017
          • 2017 All-SEC Community Service Team
          • 2016 First Team Academic All-American
          • 2016 NFCA Second Team All-American
          • 2016 First Team All-Southeast Region
          • 2015 First-Year SEC Academic Honor Roll
          • 2015 NFCA All-America Scholar-Athlete

          Kayli graduated with a degree in Communication Sciences & Disorders. She will not be pursuing a professional softball career. Thank you for these last four years, Kayli!

          Nicole DeWitt
          Photo Credits: Pinterest

          Nicole's versatility as a utility player gave her the opportunity to get on the field immediately. To many Gator softball fans, Nicole's lasting legacy will be as a WCWS hero. In the 2015 WCWS semifinals during Nicole's freshman season, Florida and Auburn were tied at 2-2 in the ninth inning.

          Needing just one win to advance to the championship series, Florida would look no further than to Nicole. Despite being 0-4 up to that point, she delivered the game-winning single to send the Gators to back-to-back WCWS Finals. Florida would go on to defend their title as they swept Michigan.

          Nicole finishes her four years for the Orange and Blue with a slash line of .330/.475/.534, 219 hits, 190 runs, 28 home runs, 161 RBI's, 27 stolen bases, and a .982 fielding percentage. Her collegiate merits include:

          • 2015 National Champion
          • 2018, 2017, 2016, and 2015 SEC Regular Season Champion
          • 2018 SEC Tournament Champion
          • 2018 NFCA Second Team All-American
          • 2018 & 2017 NFCA All-Southeast Region First Team
          • 2018 & 2017 All-SEC First Team
          • 2017 SEC All-Defensive Team
          • 2016 All-Southeast Region Third Team
          • 2015 WCWS All-Tournament Team
          • 2015 All-SEC Freshman Team

          Nicole graduate with a degree in Family Youth & Community Sciences, but has the option to prolong her playing career if she so chooses. In the 2018 National Pro Fastpitch College Draft, the USSSA Pride selected her with the 17th overall pick in the third round.

          Nicole would be the third Gator to play on the Pride's roster, joining Hannah Rogers (Class of 2014) and Kirsti Merritt (Class of 2016). Thank you for these last four years, Nicole!

          Janell Wheaton 
          Photo Credits: Twitter

          Rounding out the senior class is catcher Janell Wheaton. When she first arrived at UF, Janell had to wait behind star catcher Aubree Munro for two years before seizing the starting backstop job as a junior. From that moment on, there was no looking back as Janell was a wall behind the plate and solid with the bat.

          She finishes her Gator career with a slash line of .260/.390/.415, 131 hits, 80 runs, 15 home runs, 117 RBI's, seven stolen bases, and a .997 fielding percentage. Her collegiate honors include:

          • 2015 National Champion
          • 2018, 2017, 2016, and 2015 SEC Regular Season Champion
          • 2018 SEC Tournament Champion
          • 2018 NFCA All-Southeast Region Second Team
          • 2018 SEC All-Defensive Team
          • 2017 & 2016 SEC Academic Honor Roll
          • 2015 SEC First-Year Academic Honor Roll
          • 2015 NFCA All-America Scholar-Athlete

          Janell graduated with a degree in Sports Management and will not be pursuing a professional softball career after college. Thank you for these last four years, Janell!

          Final Takeaway
          Even though the Florida Gators did not win a national championship this year, any season that ends in Oklahoma City should be considered a success to some degree. It was unfortunate how some of the games played out in this year's WCWS, but best know Florida will have the personnel to replicate another championship run for years to come.

          Head coach Tim Walton just inked a 10-year contract extension, so he's not going anywhere anytime soon. Both Amanda Lorenz -one of the greatest hitters in UF history- and Kelly Barnhill -on track to be one of the greatest pitchers in UF history- will be returning for their senior seasons.

          The 2019 Gator softball squad will boast five seniors, four juniors, six sophomores (barring any transfers), and five or six studs in the 2019 recruiting class. There will be some holes to fill at the No. 2 pitcher (probably rising left-handed junior Katie Chronister) behind Barnhill, catcher, first base, and third base, but as always Tim Walton will replenish these positions with the right players.

          Thank you for everything, 2018 Gator Softball! Go Gators!

          *All stats accredited to
          **All awards & honors accredited to



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