Florida’s ace delivers again

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Florida senior pitcher Kelly Barnhill (34-12) held the Vols scoreless until the top of the seventh inning. [Aaron Ritter/Correspondent]

It was 40 minutes before the game when Florida softball fans already battling the sun could figure out who the starting pitcher would be with the season on the line.

Kelly Barnhill was in the outfield, firing long underhand bullets to a catcher.

Tim Walton didn’t have to wait that long.

“I walked out of the press conference (Saturday night) knowing she was going to pitch,” said the Florida coach.

Despite pitching a complete game on Friday and into the ninth inning on Saturday, Walton knew his best chance to get to Oklahoma City was his All-American senior.

But he also knew she had to be pulled because she was mentally spent Saturday night. All of the training equipment she took home Saturday night and ice baths and stretching exercises helped the physical part of it.

Would she be there mentally?

The answer is as simple as her line:

Eight innings, four hits, one run allowed.

“If this was going to be a chance for possibly our last game of the season,” Barnhill (34-12) said, “I wanted to be in control.”

And she was, walking only one batter and pitching Florida to the Women’s College World Series.

Barnhill’s performance, especially after pitching to all but two batters heading into the deciding game, was the stuff of legends.

She threw 383 pitches for the series and 103 of them on Sunday in the eight-inning game won by Florida 2-1.

“She showed some toughness today,” said Walton. “’She gave up a homer to tie the game and she got even better.”

That home run in the seventh tied the game at one, but Barnhill retired the next six batters to set up the high drama of the eighth inning and Jaimie Hoover’s walk-off hit.

Barnhill brushed off the heavy workload, probably because of the “OKC BOUND” hat she was wearing.

“It was awesome,” she said of 383 pitches. “We’re going to OKC. Pitch count doesn’t matter to me. It’s more how my body is feeling.

“A lot of time you get in a zone and you don’t feel any aches and pains you have. I was going to push through and grind through. I was going to get it done today.”

Because she did, the senior’s career is extended. And Walton gave away to worst secret in America on Sunday evening.

“There’s a pretty good chance she’ll pitch Thursday,” Walton said.

9 COMMENTS

  1. Why would they eat crow? She struggled during the regular season so their questioning was justified! Rarely does a player make such a remarkable turnaround in the post season and when they do its fair to ask why they hadnt been doing that well during the regular season! In this case, according to her, right at the end of the regular season she started using her fastball mainly, instead of another pitch she said batters had figured out and the metamorphosis occured!

    • A: she only struggled if you compare her numbers to her own insane numbers from earlier her career.
      B. The Gators “average” season was great enough to get them the 5th overall seed on the tournament.
      C. How does it help our Gators, when us lazy fans, sitting on our butts, posting critical comments of our own players that work hundreds of hours to try to win, call them out?
      Sorry, it’s not my style to bash them when I’m not doing anything to help them. We all have our own ways though. So I will keep the crow warmed up for any that deserve it.
      Go Gators!!

      • All great points, Sparky. I also think the struggling offense contributed to KB’s “struggles”, because it put pressure on her to be nearly perfect against the best teams on the schedule.

        I think UT was extremely creative in trying to take advantage of her inability to throw the ball overhanded to throw out runners. I’m a little surprised other teams haven’t tried to exploit it, and I wonder if some in OKC will.

        She’s obviously an all-time great, and although their legacies are already secure, it would be sweet for the Gators to win it all and put the final feathers in the caps of Barnhill and Lorenz. Go Gators!

          • True. Mark Wise says it on a regular basis as a guest on Steve Russell’s radio show about the Gator basketball opponents; “Those teams pay their coaches and have scholarship athletes, too”. Sometimes you just get beat. Hopefully, the Gators will do the “beating” in OKC!

  2. We have all watched Kelly Barnhill throughout her career as a Gator. We have watched her mature and develop as a player and a person. She has improved each year. She is an all American in the truest sense. She is warrior and a leader and most of all a teammate and friend to all the other players on the team. She is tough as nails and I would not want any other pitcher in the country to hand the ball to if I were the coach. Go get them girl. Go Gators!!!

  3. Sparky we finally see eye to eye…..thanks for calling out Daz….who by the way……still says”who, me??”
    He has been on Barnhill all year and for some reason before the SEC tournament stated in a post here that we had no chance unless she was benched in favor of Hightower. Lets see, 7 shutouts out of 8 tournament games ….and a 2-1 win to get the Gators to Omaha later, he does not even have the Gator decency to apologize to her. Just calls her “made of steel” on another post.
    Hightower is a very promising talent but there is something going on there. Either health or coaching relationship is a problem. We will see when the season is over. If it is health she will still be there and should become outstanding but if it is the other, “she gone”.
    For personal or geographical reasons Daz has believed she was better that Barnhill. Everybody knows that Barnhill has not been the same since last years Ga. game when the Illegal pitch thing got to her mentally……and I think it caused her to make mechanical changes that took her out of her rhythm. But she is a talent unlike this program has ever seen and, even when she is not at her best mentally or physically, she has to be on the mound. period.