Kelly Barnhill gave up more home runs in one inning than she has the entire season and No. 4 Florida went meekly into the night, getting run-ruled in its SEC softball opener Friday.
No. 7 Tennessee hit three homers in the fourth inning and trounced the Gators 9-1 in five innings in the first game of a three-game series as 1,680 watched on a perfect night.
“Definitely not the way we wanted to start,” said Florida coach Tim Walton. “But I told my team it’s a series. You’re not defined by one game.”
The teams continue the series Saturday at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium at 1 p.m.
Barnhill has given up only two homers this season in 65.2 innings coming into the game, but was rocked by the Tennessee (17-2) attack. The Vols finished the game with nine hits, all of them coming in the fourth and fifth innings.
“Very rarely does Kelly Barnhill have a game like that,” said Walton. “Unfortunately she had one in the opener of the SEC.”
Barnhill (12-2) cruised at the start of the game, recording seven strikeouts in the first 11 batters. But her second time through the meat of the order was a disaster against a Tennessee team that came into the game second in the nation in batting average.
Kali Phillips started the top of the fourth with her seventh homer of the year. Three batters later, Ally Shipman delivered a two-run homer to make it 3-1. And two batters after that, Cailin Hannah slammed another two-run shot, this one to right-center.
“Even the first time through the lineup, there were pitches that weren’t jumping a lot,” Walton said. “They were thrown off by timing more than anything (in the first three innings).”
By the time Barnhill got out of the fourth inning, she had allowed five runs on five hits and Florida (21-3) was looking at a major uphill climb against Tennessee pitcher Matty Moss (5-1).
Moss, a senior, entered the game after freshman starter Ashley Rogers allowed two of the first three batters to reach base. Moss gave up a single to Kendyl Lindaman — one of only two Florida hits in the game — to load the bases and walked Jordan Matthews to give UF a 1-0 lead.
Moss only allowed three baserunners the rest of the way.
“Moss started mixing her middle pitches really well as the game went on,” Walton said. “But it’s hard to gauge when you go from up 1-0 to down 5-1. The swings get different.”
Danni Farley replaced Barnhill in the circle to start the fifth inning and gave up the second homer of the game by Phillips, a monster shot to left to score two more runs in the fifth. A two-run single by Gracie Osborn gave Tennessee a 9-1 lead.
“(Saturday) is an important game for us,” Walton said. “Let’s see how we battle back mentally and physically.”
Who: No. 7 Tennessee (17-2, 1-0 SEC) vs. No. 4 Florida (22-2, 0-1)
When: 1 p.m.
Where: Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium
Online: SEC Network+