Gators regroup, sweep Arkansas to take SEC softball series

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Florida pitcher Kelly Barnhill (center) gets the win Thursday. [Cyndi Chambers/Correspondent/File]

By Zach Abolverdi, Correspondent

After suffering a season-worst three-game losing streak, the Florida softball team responded this weekend by winning three games in a row over a top-15 opponent.

The No. 8 Gators (32-9, 6-6 SEC) completed their first league sweep of the year Sunday with a 3-1 win 14th-ranked Arkansas, their 30th consecutive win over the Razorbacks (26-14, 6-9).

Kelly Barnhill pitched her second complete game of the series and overcame some adversity early.

“I was really pleased,” UF coach Tim Walton said. “Our team showed a good amount of resiliency, just to be down 1-0. You could definitely feel it when Kelly gave up that home run. Everybody bounced back and did a good job responding.”

Barnhill gave up her 12th homer of the season in the second to Katie Warrick, whose solo shot to left center hit the top of the scoreboard. Barnhill then allowed a walk, but struck out the next two batters swinging.

After hitting Nicole Duncan with a pitch to put two runners on, Barnhill closed out the inning with Aly Manzo looking. Barnhill was lights out the rest of the way, finishing with eight strikeouts and just two hits in 103 pitches to improve her record to 21-5.

“Any time I get into a tough situation, I just take a moment to breathe and reset. It’s just kind of what I do,” Barnhill said of the second-inning jam. “I didn’t have my best stuff, but it was enough because the defense had my back and the offense scored those runs.”

UF rallied in the bottom of the third to take the lead.

Jade Caraway tied the game when she drove in pinch-runner Amanda Beane on a groundout to third, followed by Amanda Lorenz’s RBI single to center field to put the Gators up 2-1.

“It was big to fall one-run behind and have Kelly’s back right away,” Lorenz said. “The offense is trying to take things personally and make it easier on our pitchers. This weekend was just nice for us to finally give them a little breathing room.”

That order was once again fruitful for Florida in the bottom of the fifth.

Caraway reached on an error by Arkansas pitcher Autumn Storms and advanced to second, and then Lorenz doubled to left field to make it 3-1. Storms made it out of the inning with the bases loaded, but broke down in tears when she made it to the dugout.

Storms allowed five hits and had five strikeouts, pitching her second complete game in three days.

“We made an adjustment (to Storms), and that was part of the difference,” Walton said. “She pitched good, but another run on an errant throw with two outs. But she was as advertised. Other than Jordan (Matthews) and Amanda’s hits, we didn’t hit hardly any balls out of the infield all weekend.”

Up next for the Gators is an in-state matchup at home against South Florida on Wednesday at 7 p.m. After losing their first three SEC series of the season, Lorenz and her teammates made sure to enjoy the sweep Sunday.

“It feel like we kind of took winning for granted,” Lorenz said. “My first three years, it was kind of just what we did. So it was nice to get this feeling again. It feels good.”