Extra special: Hoover’s hit puts Gators in Women’s College World Series.

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Florida's Jaimie Hoover has ice water dumped on her after she delivered a clutch RBI single Sunday against Tennessee to help the Gators advance to the WCWS. [Aaron Ritter/Correspondent]

As soon as Amanda Lorenz pulled into second base Sunday, Florida softball coach Tim Walton headed for one of his players.

Not Kendyl Lindaman at the on-deck circle. Not Hannah Adams preparing to bat behind her.

Instead, he sought out cleanup hitter Jaimie Hoover.

“Jaimie, you got a chance here,” he said. “It’s going to be you.

All we need is a single.”

Hoover delivered by ripping a change-up into the gap in left-center to score Lorenz with the winning run against Tennessee and send Florida back to the Women’s College World Series for the 10th time in 12 seasons.

The final was 2-1 in the NCAA Gainesville Super Regional at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium where every pitch seemed to drip with consequences through a pair of extra-inning games. Florida won this one in the bottom of the eighth, handing the win to workhorse senior Kelly Barnhill (34-12).

“Kelly Barnhill was Kelly Barnhill doing Kelly Barnhill things,” Walton said. “She did a phenomenal job.”

Barnhill threw 383 pitches for the three-game series and still had enough left to retire six straight Tennessee players after giving up the tying home run to Haley Bearden on the first pitch of the seventh inning.

“I wasn’t trying to do that,” Bearden said. “That was an accident, but I’m glad it happened. (The pitch) was right where I wanted it.”

In the eighth, the Gators (49-16) got a one-out double from Lorenz in her last at-bat at KSP Stadium. After Lindaman was walked, Adams grounded out sharply to first base to advance the runners.

Walton said he toyed with the idea of pulling Hoover, who had struck out three times previously against Tennessee starter Ashley Rogers (21-7).

“I can’t remember a player striking out three times and then getting the game-winning hit,” Walton said. “Not in this program, because I usually pinch hit for them on the fourth time. It crossed my mind.

“But I didn’t think they were bad swings. She was just kind of guessing.”

Rogers tried to fool Hoover with a change-up, but the junior delivered a two-out walk-off.

“I wasn’t really looking for a change, just something I could drive,” Hoover said. “It was amazing. That feeling is unbelievable.”

It was the second straight year for Florida getting a walk-off to go to the WCWS and almost as unlikely a hero as Jordan Mathews last year.

“The game doesn’t know she was 0-for-3,” Lorenz said of Hoover. “That’s the coolest thing about postseason. Nobody’s going to remember that she was 0-for-3. They’re going to remember that walk-off. That’s pretty sick.”

The Gators will face Oklahoma State at 7 p.m. Thursday in Oklahoma City in the first game of the eight-team tournament. Tennessee ended its season with a 43-17 record.

“It was two teams that refused to lose,”’ said Tennessee co-coach Karen Weekly. “But in the end, somebody has to.”

Florida jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the first inning on Sophia Reynoso’s sharp RBI single with two outs that scored Lorenz. Barnhill got a big double play in the fifth inning and escaped the sixth thanks to a caught stealing at third and one of her seven strikeouts.

With a crowd of 1,754 on a brutally-hot day ready for the clincher, Bearden wasted no time tying it up in the seventh.

But Barnhill didn’t flinch, keeping the Vols at bay and giving her team a chance to win.

“After the home run, I really felt like we could show some emotion,” Walton said. “Nothing. Not one bad look in the huddle. And I’ve seen bad looks in the huddle.

“It speaks to the resiliency of this team. It makes you feel good that your training them this way. And I’m just really proud of the moments.”

19 COMMENTS

      • Galvez, you would really fire Walton just because he might not win the World Series? This year’s team wasn’t even expected to get there. Peruse Tim’s record while I thank God you’re not the AD at UF.

        2006 Florida 43–25 17–13 3rd (East) NCAA Regional
        2007 Florida 50–22 17–11 2nd (East) NCAA Super Regional
        2008 Florida 70–5 27–1 1st (East) WCWS Semifinals
        2009 Florida 63–5 26–1 1st (East) WCWS Runner-Up
        2010 Florida 49–10 20–4 1st (East) WCWS Quarterfinals
        2011 Florida 56–13 21–7 1st (East) WCWS Runner-Up
        2012 Florida 48–13 21–7 2nd (East) NCAA Regional
        2013 Florida 58–9 18–6 1st (East) WCWS Elimination Game
        2014 Florida 55–12 15–9 4th WCWS Champions
        2015 Florida 60–7 18–5 1st WCWS Champions
        2016 Florida 56–7 20–4 1st NCAA Super Regional
        2017 Florida 58–10 20–3 1st WCWS Runner-Up
        2018 Florida 56–11 20–4 1st WCWS Quarterfinals
        2019 Florida 44-15 12-12 T-6th
        Florida: 722–149 (.829) 260–75 (.776)
        Total: 834–212 (.797)

  1. With the game on the line, Amanda Lorenz knew she needed to be in scoring position, and a walk wouldn’t cut it. She took it upon herself to get there with her bat, and that double down the left field line was a magnificent piece of clutch hitting. Mandy Softball!!!

  2. This team has me jacked up for “June” Gator Softball! Helluva a series with Tennessee, and now it’s on to OKC! These Gator ladies have grit and heart, and that means ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE! And these young ladies are making us proud to be Florida Gators! Go Gators!

  3. I like Hoover’s stance, but in those strike outs, she again took good fastballs and swung at horrible pitches, one over head? With that upper cut, she should never swing at anything above her belt! She hit a low fast ball, get that, keep that image.

    • I think the pitches she took were change ups based on the radar gun speeds. Hoover, Lindaman, Roberts, and Matthews all had trouble recognizing the change up. Rogers knew she could pretty much groove a first pitch change up to those hitters, because they’d be confused and take it for a called strike, or mistake it for a fastball and be way out in front for a swinging strike. Great pitchers fool good hitters into swinging at bad pitches, which obviously then are good pitches for the pitcher. That’s why great hitters like Amanda Lorenz, who don’t swing at bad pitches, or can still hit them if they do, are so special.

      The Gators need those four hitters and the bottom half of the order to step up in OKC and produce some runs to take some pressure off Barnhill. Let’s hope they see more power pitchers than off speed pitchers. Go Gators!