Super show: Gators don’t allow a run in three NCAA wins to advance to Super Regional (updated)

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Florida baserunner Sophia Reynoso scores Sunday against Boise State in the title game of the NCAA Gainesville Regional at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium. The Gators beat the Broncos 5-0 to advance to the Super Regional. [Aaron Ritter/Gainesville Sun Correspondent]

Florida followed a familiar formula to advance to another NCAA Super Regional on Sunday.

1. Get a lead.

2. Let Kelly Barnhill take over.

The senior pitcher may not have been overly impressed with her weekend, but she threw six shutout innings to lead the No. 5-seeded Gators past Boise State 5-0.

“I don’t think I threw my best this weekend,” Barnhill said after running her record to 32-11 on the season. “Personally, I think I can do a lot better.”

But here is what she did as Florida swept through the Gainesville Regional — 15 innings, six hits, zero runs allowed.

In six starts since the end of the regular season, Barnhill’s ERA is 0.20 and Florida (47-15) is riding an eight-game winning streak heading into the Supers.

“I could make a lot of money if I knew what it would take to make Kelly the absolute best,” said Florida coach Tim Walton. “Last weekend she threw almost every pitch and she looked about as good as she has looked in her career. And I didn’t throw her as much this week and she wasn’t as good as she was last week.

“I don’t know if there is a secret formula for Kelly Barnhill. She is a unique individual. She gets better as she throws more.”

Florida advances to play next weekend against No. 14 seed Tennessee (42-15), winner of the Knoxville Regional. The Gators will be playing their fifth straight Super Regional against another SEC team.

It will be the seventh straight Super for the Gators and 12th under Walton. Florida will try to advance to the Women’s College World Series for the 10th time.

The NCAA announced Monday that the Super Regional will be 7 p.m. Friday (ESPN2), 6 p.m. Saturday (ESPN) and 2 p.m., if necessary, Sunday (ESPNU).

On Sunday, Florida scored twice in the first inning and never looked back. Amanda Lorenz, who had three hits, led off with a single and eventually scored on a wild pitch. Another run scored on a Sophia Reynoso ground out.

That was all Barnhill would need.

“You get a lead, it even changes the way the other team starts their at-bats,” Barnhill said. “They try to get too big sometimes and overswinging. It makes pitching to them easier.”

A sacrifice fly by Jordan Roberts in the third made it 3-0 and a solo homer from Jaimie Hoover off the pitcher’s shelter in left made it 4-0 in the fourth. It was Hoover’s seventh of the year.

“She does that all the time in practice,” Barnhill said. “We are in the pitching thing and it’s like a bomb shelter. Boom, boom, boom.”

The Gators got a hustle run in the fifth when Cheyenne Lindsey beat out a two-out infield hit and Reynoso scored all the way from second.

“We’re playing with this fearlessness once this postseason started,” Lorenz said. “We have nothing to lose.”

Barnhill kept the Broncos (36-16) grasping for answers, leaving after six innings and allowing only two singles.

“She was really spinning it,” said Boise’s Cora Wade.

A crowd of 1,302 saw Barnhill strike out six batters and walk only one as she recorded her ninth career win in NCAA play. Barnhill’s ERA in NCAA tournament games is now 1.07 with 137 strikeouts.

“The best thing for me is we’re scoring runs, she doesn’t have to be perfect and she’s locating the ball better,” Walton said.

Florida went to Katie Chronister for two outs and Elizabeth Hightower for the final before celebrating another trip to the second weekend of the tournament.

UP NEXT

Gainesville Super Regional

Florida plays host to Tennessee (42-15) at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium, 7 p.m. Friday (ESPN2), 6 p.m. Saturday (ESPN) and 2 p.m., if necessary, Sunday (ESPNU).

TV: ESPN family of networks


6 COMMENTS

  1. Congrats, ladies! Seems to me the hitters are more aggressive lately than some past Gator teams. Whether Coach Walton has encouraged them or they’ve taken it upon themselves, it seems they’re looking for pitches to drive rather than looking to draw walks. I hope it continues. Go Gators!!!

  2. I watched most of this game, and it looks like the team put it in the next gear. If I lived in G’ville, I would attend quite a few of their games. Lots of energy and excitement. I’ve often wondered what it would be like if men’s baseball players screamed and hollered and chanted the way the ladies do!

  3. It’s funny hearing Walton talk about Barnhill pitching better when she pitches more. He obviously doesn’t listen to some posters on here that claimed he was using her too much and that’s why she was struggling earlier. Maybe he just might know what he’s doing 😎