Dooley: UF’s Barnhill making her pitch toward perfection

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Florida pitcher Kelly Barnhill in action during Team USA play last summer on the University of Alabama campus in Tuscaloosa. [Erin Nelson/GateHouse Media Services]

Not everybody gets it.

The ending to “The Arrival.” Rap music. Why coaches don’t foul when they are up three inside of 10 seconds. Rob Riggle’s career.

Dr. Evil’s son.

“Ya just don’t get it, do ya Scotty?”

Mostly, people don’t get what it takes.

What is required to be great.

What is necessary to take it to another level.

What is mandatory to be special.

And then there is Kelly Barnhill.

The work ethic was installed by her father, Jeter, who used to ask her when she didn’t want to practice, “Don’t you want to be the best?”

She did.

She is.

But the best isn’t good enough. Sure, she earned the program’s first ESPY.

“I may or may not have stalked Michael Phelps for a picture,” she says with a giggle.

And played on Team USA and led the Gators to the national championship series in Oklahoma City last season.

Yes, she was ESPN’s player of the year and the SEC pitcher of the year.

Not enough.

“Kelly Barnhill gets it better than most people would ever think,” said Florida coach Tim Walton. “I have to motivate people to continue to get better and better and better. She motivates me to motivate her to get better and better.

“She does it in her own way but she gets it.”

It would have been easy to rest on her laurels from a whirlwind 2017 and just show up this year as America’s top pitcher and a big reason why Florida starts the season Friday as the nation’s No. 2-ranked team.

But not if you want something more.

The great ones get it.

So when she sat down in Walton’s office to talk about the things she needed to do to improve, the coach had a list of 12 things.

Some players would have shrugged them off.

She had a list of 13.

“I’ve never had an athlete sit in my office and tell me all the things she was good and bad at how she needed to improve,” Walton said. “I’ve coached a lot of high-level athletes that in some regards didn’t always get it. She gets it.”

Got it?

Barnhill is coming off a sophomore season where she won 26 games and saved two more. Her earned run average was almost invisible at 0.51 and she struck out 359 batters.

“Last season didn’t end the way I wanted it to personally and for the team,” she said of Florida’s loss in the NCAA championship series to Oklahoma. “It was a really disappointing feeling I never want to have again.”

So she went to work. She improved her nutrition and her work in the bullpen. She worked a little harder in the weight room.

And she hit the pool.

“Mostly freestyle and backstroke, a variation of drills,” she said.

Everything and anything she could do to get her better equipped to be even more dominant in the circle.

“Not because she has to but because she wants to,” Walton said. “She wants to be great, one of the greatest.”

And the greatest ones take the extra step.

The extra workout.

The extra preparation.

Not with a lot of fanfare, but with quiet determination.

And they don’t get much more quiet than the star from Marietta, Ga.

“She’s humble, she’s down to earth,” Walton said. “She’s very simple.

“She’s as quiet of a superstar as anyone we’ve had.”

Until she unleashes that heat with movement against opposing hitters who come to the plate knowing the high probability of the inevitable turn back to the dugout with a “K” in their boxscore.

“Every little thing contributes to how you’re going to perform and I want to perform my best to help the team,” she said.

Got it.

Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at pat.dooley@gvillesun.com. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.

5 COMMENTS

  1. Coach white would encourage team . Some team mistake,change,happen ,miss shoot . Next time back again against Alabama. Up four game won . 19-8 period let Auburn go . Good I think first NCAA tournament basketball . Only four less . Then next year again. Go Gators

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