Florida’s weekend series against No. 11 South Carolina opened in all too familiar fashion, with ace Kelly Barnhill striking out the side while UF came across the plate in the first inning.
When all was said and done Friday, the No. 6-ranked Gators softball team claimed the first game in the three-game series against the Gamecocks with a 3-1 win at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium.
“I thought overall we came out well. I thought we did a good job swinging early,” UF coach Tim Walton said. “I definitely think this game is a game of little things, a game of inches, but it’s also a game of momentum.”
After dropping three of their last five games, the Gators (35-7, 10-3 SEC) worked quickly to get back to their tendency to record runs from the outset. With Aleshia Ocasio at the plate, Hannah Adams opened the scoring by coming home on a passed ball. UF doubled the lead in the second inning with Alex Voss’ RBI double, and Barnhill maintained her dominance on the mound to keep the Gamecocks (34-8, 8-5 SEC) off of the board.
Barnhill, who picked up win No. 18, was terrific throughout the seven innings. The junior right-hander allowed just one hit and four walks while striking out 13 Gamecocks.
“Honestly, I don’t care who you’re playing. Getting runs on the board early is a great way to start a game,” Barnhill said. “You just carry that momentum throughout the game.”
Nicole DeWitt increased her team-high home run total to nine when she connected on a solo shot to right center field that narrowly escaped the leaping glove of Gamecocks right fielder Tiara Duffy.
Barnhill’s no-hit bid was broken up with one out in the seventh inning, when Duffy doubled to right center, scoring Kennedy Clark.
The Gators extended their hold atop of the SEC, with Georgia (11-4) and South Carolina (8-5) trailing close behind at second and third, respectively.
Florida returns to the mound Saturday at noon for a doubleheader with South Carolina to conclude the series. The series’ third game will commence approximately 30 minutes after the conclusion of the opener. It became a doubleheader because of the threat of inclement weather Sunday.