OCALA-- The College of Central Florida softball team made a strong statement as to why they are one of the top softball programs in the country after going 6-0 on opening weekend at the JUCO Kickoff Classic in Clearwater, Fla.
The Lady Patriots, who entered the season ranked No. 2 in the state and No. 3 in the NJCAA, opened up the two-day event defeating Georgia Highlands (9-0 5IN), Polk State (8-6) and Richard Bland (9-1 5IN) on Saturday. On Sunday, they cruised past East Georgia State (9-0), South Georgia State (3-0), and Odessa College (7-1).
Overall, CF got off to a strong start at the plate and in the circle. Brooke Barlow (7-for-14, 8 RBI, 4 runs scored, home run), Kelsee Cullop (9-15, 7 RBI, 6 runs scored), Deeandreaya Davis (8-15, 7 RBI, 6 runs scored), and Mariah Wise (10-17, 9 runs scored, RBI) sparked the Patriot offense on opening weekend. In the circle, South Alabama transfer Kalen McGill went 3-0, tallying wins against Georgia Highlands, Polk State and Odessa College. McGill allowed just one run and three hits in 13 innings and struck out 13.
In the season opener versus Georgia Highlands, CF jumped out to an early 3-0 lead in the first and added six more runs in the fourth to close it out in five innings.
Taylor Cruce kicked off the six-run fourth inning with a single to left field. Claudia Jones and Wise each followed to load the bases for Davis. Davis doubled to center field to clear the bases and put CF up 6-0. From there, Barlow, Destinee Lizzmore and Taylor Cruce added insurance runs to cap off the explosive inning.
McGill didn't allow a hit and struck out four in three scoreless innings to get her first win of the year. Backing her at the plate was Davis (2-for-4, 4 RBI, 2 runs scored), Wise (2-for-3, 2 runs scored), Lizzmore (2-for-3, RBI) and Cruce (2-for-2, RBI).
Against Polk State, the Lady Patriots were down 5-4 heading into the fourth inning. Cullop and Rebecca Enter each singled setting up Shelbee Blackburn. With a 2-0 count and two outs, Blackburn crushed a three-run home run over the center field wall to plate the winning runs for CF. McGill came in in relief for Lindsey White and Cruce to pitch three scoreless innings and secure a 8-6 victory for the Patriots.
Blackburn led CF at the plate, going 2-for-3 with two home runs, four RBI and two runs scored.
CF closed out Day 1 of the JUCO Kickoff Classic routing Richard Bland College 9-1 in five innings. Davis (2-for-4, 3 RBI), Enter (1-for-2, 2 RBI, home run), Cruce (2-for-3, RBI, run scored) and Cullop (2-for-2, 2 runs scored) paced CF at the plate. In the circle, White allowed just one run on five hits and struck out three in five innings of work.
Lady Patriots kept things rolling on Day 2 of the JUCO Kickoff Classic.
Against East Georgia State, CF got out to an early 3-0 start in the top of the first inning and never looked back. Wise (3-for-5, 2 runs scored), Cullop (2-for-4, 2 RBI, 2 runs scored) and Barlow (1-for-2, 2 RBI) led the Patriots at the plate.
Morgan Matthews got the win in the circle, throwing four scoreless inning, allowing just three hits and striking out three.
The Patriots faced one of their tougher opponents of the weekend in South Georgia State. The Patriots scored twice in the third off Barlow's double to center field, and added an insurance run in the fifth inning to secure their fifth straight win.
Cruce received the win, allowing just four hit in four, scoreless innings of work.
In the final game of the weekend, CF received a stellar pitching performance from McGill. She allowed just one run on two hits and struck out five in seven innings of work. McGill was backed in the circle with a heavy offensive attack. As a team, the Lady Patriots registered 12 hits, plating seven. Cullop led the attack, going 2-for-4 with 3 RBI. Caeley Nix (2-for-3, RBI) and Barlow (2-for-3, RBI) also added strong performances.
The Lady Patriots will be back on the field this Thursday for their home-opener doubleheader against State College of Florida-Manatee. Games are slated for 2 and 4 p.m. starts.