So it comes down to this for the Florida softball team.
Winner to Bricktown.
Kelly Barnhill and her 29-1 record in the circle.
“She’s going to have to be Kelly Barnhill,” said Florida coach Tim Walton, “and have Kelly Barnhill stuff.”
Texas A&M (44-17) won for the first time in Gainesville and ended Florida’s 11-game winning streak 5-4 Friday to force a deciding third game in the Gainesville Super Regional on Saturday.
A Tori Vidales three-run homer in the bottom of the fifth inning was the difference and Payton McBride — who walked in the winning run Thursday night — pitched 3⅔ innings of scoreless relief for the Aggies as 2,184 watched at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium.
“I thought we showed a lot of character,” said Texas A&M coach Jo Evans. “(Thursday night) was tough on all of us and it was tough on Payton.”
McBride came in after Florida had taken a 4-2 lead in the fourth and walked the first batter she faced to load the bases. But she got out of that jam and another in the sixth when Florida had the tying run at third.
As a result, it’s a one-game season for the Gators (54-9), who have lost five Super Regional games in the last five years but made three appearances in the Women’s College Series during that stretch.
“This team is used to playing with our backs to the wall in Super Regionals,” said Florida’s Amanda Lorenz, who has yet to make an out in the series in eight at-bats. “We’re going to be just fine. All that matters is what happens (today).”
The two teams play at 5 p.m. with the winner advancing to Oklahoma City.
“It’s going to be a different kind of game,” Walton said. “It’s not something you can practice in your backyard.”
Florida starter Aleshia Ocasio (21-7) gave up more runs than she had in a game all season, including the two-out homer to Vidales.
“They were hitting the ball hard,” Walton said. “They were obviously seeing something pretty well with her drop ball.”
The Aggies started fast after the emotional loss Thursday night, scoring in the bottom of the first when Sarah Hudek, who had three hits in the game, blasted a home run to center field. A&M made it 2-0 in the second with the help of a couple of mistakes by Nicole DeWitt.
With a runner on second, DeWitt fielded a sharp grounder and had pinch-runner Kylie George caught off the base. But DeWitt hesitated just long enough to allow George to slide back in under the tag.
The next batter — Riley Sartain — hit another grounder to third, but DeWitt threw wide of second for an error to allow a runner to score.
In the top of the third, a walk to Lorenz and a single by DeWitt had the Gators in business, but two outs later they had only advanced a base. That was when Janell Wheaton delivered a two-run single on a 3-2 pitch to tie the game.
In the fourth, it was DeWitt coming up with the clutch hit, a sharp single to right to give Florida a 4-2 lead.
But the lead left the park in the bottom of the fifth. Ocasio got the first two outs before giving up a pair of singles. Vidales then drilled her 13th homer of the year to dead center and Texas A&M led 5-4, eventually holding on for the win.
“We have to go out there and be in control of our emotions (today),” DeWitt said. “We just have to go out there and do what we know how to do.”