The last game of Florida’s season in 2016 ended with two outs and one on in the bottom of the seventh and Aleshia Ocasio on the mound. Georgia pinch-hitter Kaylee Puailoa shocked the Gators with two-run homer that dashed any hopes of a Florida three-peat.
It was the first time Florida had lost a home Super Regional but Ocasio didn’t dwell on it for long.
“I talked to her at the end of the season last year and made it perfectly clear that her one pitch didn’t cost of the game,” said Florida head coach Tim Walton. “It just happened to be the last play of the game but we had a lot of opportunities to do things in that series that we just didn’t get done.”
Not even a week after the heartbreaking defeat, she reached out to head coach Tim Walton and asked if she get more at bats. He told her defense is the key and that she needed to take fly balls in right and left field as well as ground balls at second, third and first.
“I told her I would double her at bats and two days later she sent me a text saying, ‘I only had 30 at bats, I hope I get more than 80,’” said Walton. “About three quarters through the summer, she had a pitching lesson and sent me a picture of her in catching gear and said I can catch too if you need it.”
Coach Walton kept his promise. Ocasio went from the 30 at bats in 2016 to 172 so far in 2017. She has started 59 of 63 games at three different positions; pitcher, right field and third base.
“Everyday I come to practice and I’m in right field, taking some ground balls in the circle and I’m also practicing at third base. Wherever Coach puts me that day is where I’m going to dedicate myself 100 percent. I made those plays for Kelly and I made those plays for the team. It just so happens that he put me at third yesterday and today and I did whatever I could to get some outs.”
All of the extra work and at bats have paid off for the junior. She has started both games in the Women’s College World Series at third base. On Thursday night, she hit a three-run home run and on Friday night she made a couple spectacular plays at the hot corner. She went diving into the camera well for one catch.
“Growing up I was an infielder so it wasn’t entirely new to me but from freshman year to now I did have to get better in the infield and now I’m confident.”