Florida beats Alabama to again win SEC softball tournament title

10
2002
Florida's Amanda Lorenz. [AP Photo/Gary McCullough/File)

Special to Gatorsports.com

COLLEGE STATION, Texas — Florida’s standout seniors Kelly Barnhill and Amanda Lorenz again came through to lift the sixth-seeded Gators to a 2-1 win over top seed Alabama and capture the program’s second consecutive SEC softball tournament championship Saturday.

“I give all our credit to our players,” UF coach Tim Walton said. “Our players not only did a really good job of staying focused, but did what they needed to do to stay in tune in the rain delay game on Wednesday, and just doing everything necessary to regroup each and every day when we had a new opponent.”

The tourney win, UF’s fifth all time to tie Alabama and LSU, was extra sweet coming against rival Alabama, which ended UF’s hold on the league’s regular season title but also swept the Gators in Gainesville earlier this season.

“No one expected us to do well, but everyone contributed,” said Barnhill, who was named the tournament MVP. “It was really exciting to see everyone contribute in some way. Whether it was a pinch hit or making plays on defense or just moving runners. I think everyone did a really good job this week. It was our last regular season softball game wearing the Florida Gator uniform so I’m glad we could go out like this. We’re not done yet, of course.”

Barnhill (30-11) won her 100th career game by limiting the Crimson Tide (52-7) to two hits, striking out six and walking six. Barnhill won all three of her games in the tourney, allowing just one run and five hits (a 0.33 ERA, .075 opponent batting average) in 21 innings pitched and had 24 strikeouts.

“Kelly Barnhill did a fabulous job the whole entire week, against really good hitting teams and used her defense when she needed to,” Walton said. “No bigger strikeout than the last strikeout of the game, just a fabulous pitch and really did a good job.”

After going 0 for 4 with runners in scoring position in the first, third and fourth innings, Florida (44-15) finally broke through in a big way with two outs in the sixth inning. Pinch hitter Cheyenne Lindsey hit a double and Jordan Matthews worked a pinch-hit walk before Lorenz’s two-run double down the left-field line on a full count.

“In a tight-knit group like this, to see everyone contribute and our hard work pay off, was just a lot of fun,” Lorenz said. “I just love all of my teammates so much, so to go out like this in my senior year with them by my side is really exciting. I’ve enjoyed every second of it.”

The Crimson Tide threatened in their half of the sixth, but Barnhill struck out a Bama player to end the frame.

Alabama ended Barnhill’s scoreless streak in the tournament at 17 straight with its run in the fourth inning. A walk, single and two groundouts produced the Crimson Tide run.

The teams will find out their NCAA Tournament assignment on the Selection Show at 9 p.m. Sunday on ESPN 2.

Note: All five of Florida’s SEC Tournament Titles have come under the guidance of head coach Tim Walton, which is more than any other coach in conference history. … Walton holds a career 23-9 record at the SEC Tournament. … The win over No. 4 Alabama was the team’s 19th victory over a top-25 opponent this season. Barnhill picked up her 100th career victory and is now only one of three pitchers in Florida history to have achieved the benchmark: Stacey Nelson (2006-’09) – 136, Hannah Rogers (2011-’14) – 127. … Lorenz, Sophia Reyenoso and Hannah Adams join Barnhill on the SEC All-Tournament team.

10 COMMENTS

  1. Congratulations to the Gator Softball Team. These girls are a very special group. They epitomize what college sports is all about. Grit, heart, determination and teamwork. All Gator athletes can look to them for inspiration. Good luck in the NCAA tournament. Bring it home. You deserve it.

  2. It says a lot about how great a job Coach Walton has done, and the crazy expectations he has created. Ranked in the top 10 almost all season and more wins against top 15 teams than any team, yet our fans wondering what’s wrong and calling their season “average”. It’s great to be a Florida Gator!!

  3. They have ring of honor for football so now it’s time for ring of honor for the softball teams. Barnhill and Lorenz definitely need to be on something at that stadium. And they will probably get a super regional again this year due to they great job done at SEC tourney.

  4. Barnhill gives up one run in three games against SEC elite. Any questions?
    Great job ladies……once again you have made Gator Nation proud!
    Yes, a ring of honor is a great idea….. and Lorenz and Barnhill are right there with Nelson, Rodgers, etc. for first in.