Aggies beat Gators to stay alive in Super Regional

9
1690
Texas A&M players celebrate Friday after beating Florida during Game 2 of the Gainesville Super Regional at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium on the UF campus. [Brad McClenny/The Gainesville Sun]

So it comes down to this for the Florida softball team.

One game.

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.”

 

9 COMMENTS

  1. Pitching and fielding mistakes cost the Gators this game. Plus, I still do not like the way the Gators are batting. I know they are drawing a lot of walks, but they look too passive at the plate and are not hitting the ball enough. They are leaving way too many runners on base. Walks are good, but I think they need to be more aggressive at the plate and swing the bat more.

    Go Gators.

    • I think you’re right, Joel. I hate to be too critical of the Gators’ strategy, but I’m with you; there’s a time to look for a walk and a time to look for a pitch to drive. If you need base runners, walks are great. If you have runners in scoring position, walks may put pressure on the defense, but they don’t drive in runs, other than in bases loaded situations. At some point, your rbi producers have to aggressively look for a pitch to drive rather than passively waiting for a walk.

      I was impressed with TAMU’s resilience after the devastating loss Thursday night. Hope the Gators can reverse their fortunes on Saturday. Go Gators!

  2. I put the loss on Walton. He should have walked Vidales, and even if the next batter had gotten a hit they would have probably only scored 2 runs to tie the game, maybe only 1. Why would you not walk her…the best hitter on the team?

  3. I agree. I was a bad decision to pitch to her. At least if you do pitch to her don’t give her anything good to hit and it you walk her so what. She was a hitter who could definitely hurt us.

    In addition, if you heard the interview with the Texas A & M coach she said their team came into the series looking to be more aggressive hitting. We need some of that attitude as well. We are too passive looking to walk and not for a pitch to hit.

  4. If Reynoso gloves the grounder before the Vidales 3 run dinger, inning over. If DeWitt didn’t make her mistake…uncharacteristic for each if them. TAMU choked Thursday, it was UF’s turn Friday. Now as coach said, Barnhill must be Barnhill.
    Agree about the passiveness at the plate. Very frustrating when UF sends a pinch hitter(Roberts) to the plate, and the bat never leaves her shoulder.

  5. It’s easy for us to be arm chair quarterbacks, but I agree with Jim. Coach should have put her on. Coach even said in his post game comments, “They were hitting the ball hard”. Why let their best hitter and leading HR hitter beat you with one swing of the bat.
    With that said, Walton is the best women’s softball coach in the NCAA.
    Go Gators

  6. I concur with all of the postings about the passive approach at the plate. I can understand the plan to take a called first strike, but batter after batter for the Gators take a called second strike when it is right down the heart of the plate. Once they have 2 strikes, they are forced to widen their strike zone and swing at pitches off the plate. Hoping for a lot of walks takes the bat out of your hands, and puts the opposing pitcher in control. As we say in the business world, hope is not a business plan. This team has too much talent to sit back like this. Would like to see a more assertive approach today or it’s time to get ready for next year.

  7. Jordan Mathews Just saved Walton’s butt from making the same mistake as last night, pitching to Vidales the best hitter in Texas A & M history. Great coach but doesn’t learn a lesson very fast!