FLORIDA 5, TEXAS A&M 3
Gainesville, FL– The Florida Gators are headed back to Oklahoma City thanks to a true freshman. OF Jordan Matthews hit a line drive shot over the wall in centerfield to lead the Gators to a thrilling victory over Texas A&M.
But let’s step back a moment and talk about how we got to that point. The Gators entered the seventh inning with a 2-1 lead. Aleshia Ocasio was in the circle, having relieved Kelly Barnhill in the sixth with the bases loaded. Ocasio pitched brilliantly to work out of the jam and somehow Florida escaped the inning with the lead intact.
Ocasio coasted through the first two batters, striking out Payton McBride (swinging) and Samantha Show (looking). Sarah Hudek then completed a 3-4 day at the plate with a first pitch single to right field, bringing up senior power hitter Tori Vidales. Vidales turned on a 3-1 pitch and sent a no-doubt homer to center to put the Aggies ahead.
Trailing 3-2, the Gators went to work in the bottom of the seventh. SEC Player of the Year Amanda Lorenz drew a leadoff walk. Two batters later, Kayli Kvistad reached with a walk to put two runners on for senior catcher Janell Wheaton. Wheaton struck out looking, leaving it up to Matthews. Matthews got down 0-2 early, took a couple of balls, and fouled off a few pitches, including one she barely made contact with. Then, with a 2-2 count took one deep to send the Florida crowd and the dugout observers into a frenzy.
Kelly Barnhill pitched 5 innings before getting into trouble. Barnhill allowed five hits and struck out only two in throwing 78 pitches.
Amanda Lorenz, who officially went 0-1 at the plate, reached on every at-bat during the Super Regionals (she reached on a fielder’s choice on Saturday). Matthews finished the game 3-4 with the homer and two runs scored in addition to three RBI. Janell Wheaton went 2-3 with an RBI to help the cause.
After the game, Jordan Matthews talked about her approach during the at-bat, “I was just trying to keep it simple, trying to hit it to the gap… and score Amanda (Lorenz, from second).” She continued “I didn’t know it was over until I was halfway to second.”
Janell Wheaton talked about how this team continues to embrace each moment and live within the present moment. She called the game “a story book ending.” For Wheaton, a senior from California, this was her final game at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium.
Florida coach Tim Walton took full responsibility for not taking Ocasio out prior to Vidales’ at-bat. Walton talked it over with pitching coach, Jen Rocha and had decided to make the move after the Hudek at-bat. Walton cited his gut on the change of heart. “I’m second guessing myself, it was a bad coaching move. I give the players a lot of credit for picking up the coaches there.”
That they did behind a true freshman who one year ago tore her ACL in her final high school at-bat. As Coach Walton said, “I can’t teach that stuff, that’s just one of those holy s— moments.”
The Gators advance to the Women’s College World Series for the ninth time and for the fifth time in the last six years. The WCWS begins Thursday in Oklahoma City.
Last season, Florida fell in the Championship Series to Oklahoma.
Stay tuned with The Gator Chomp Blog for a preview of the Women’s College World Series later this week.
W: Ocasio (22-7)
L: Trinity Harrington (13-7)