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Florida 11, Georgia 3: Gators use power, patience to maul Bulldogs in WCWS opener

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The Gators gave up a big first blow — then came back with bombs of their own.

@GatorsSB

One half-inning into their stay at the 2018 Women’s College World Series, it seemed possible that the Florida Gators were already in deep trouble.

After five full innings, the only thing deep about the Gators was how far their home runs traveled.

Florida slugged three homers, including a three-run shot from starting pitcher Aleshia Ocasio, and both pounded and patiently outworked four Georgia pitchers in an 11-3 game that ended by run rule. (College softball games end after the fifth inning when the home team is leading by eight or more runs.)

Ocasio’s homer came in the bottom of the first, and as a resounding answer to her rocky top of the first in a surprise start on the mound. Georgia’s Courtni Emanuel lanced a single to right to lead off the game and survived an attempt to steal second that could have been the inning’s second out if not for a questionable obstruction call, and the Bulldogs’ Justice Milz made Ocasio pay for hanging a ball high in the zone by sending it out to center for a 2-0 advantage.

But Florida wasted no time answering those early runs with an outburst of its own. The Gators loaded the bases for Super Regional hero Jordan Matthews in the bottom of the first, and she delievered by tying the game with a two-run double to the wall in left. Ocasio followed her with a shot to right that gave the Gators the lead — and for good.

Florida would add a run in the second inning on a fielder’s choice that could have been a double play, and got towering homers from Jordan Roberts — brilliantly pinch-hit for Matthews by Florida coach Tim Walton — and Hannah Adams in the fourth and fifth innings, the latter precipitating the second pitching change of the day for the Bulldogs.

And Florida would load the bases to force yet another change on the mound in the bottom of the fifth, then finished the Bulldogs off by working an RBI walk — the eighth walk of a night which saw Florida establish a new NCAA record for walks taken in a season — and an RBI hit by pitch in the bottom of the fifth to trigger the run rule.

The win propels Florida to the so-called 1-0 Game of the winners’ bracket on their half of the Women’s College World Series draw, and gives them more than 24 hours off before their next game, a 9:30 p.m. Eastern showdown on Friday with the winner of Thursday’s late game between Florida State and UCLA.