EPIC WIN: Matthews-led Gators advance to WCWS

The Gators celebrate their 5-3 win Saturday over Texas A&M in the NCAA Super Regional at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium. The series was split going into the third game in the series. The Gators will head back to the Women's College World Series for the ninth time in the program's history. [Cyndi Chambers/Correspondent]

In the white noise of the moment, Tim Walton never saw it go out. He was busy trying to get the winning run home with a windmill wave because he was assuming that — like so many balls Florida hit this weekend — it would smack off the wall.

But he forgot something important — one ounce.

The ounce he added to Jordan Matthews’ 34-inch bat Saturday to give her some extra pop.

“It was the first time all season she swung the bat she used in high school,” he said. “But she deserves all the credit.”

Matthews, a freshman, drilled a three-run homer to left-center in the bottom of the seventh that gave Florida a 5-3 win to bring a dramatic end to a dramatic series.

The homer, Matthews’ fifth of the season, landed somewhere in Oklahoma City where Florida will play next in the Women’s College World Series.

“I was just trying to score Amanda (Lorenz from second), really,” Matthews said. “Tring to hit it hard in a gap. I knew it was out. I was just embracing the moment.”

Matthews’ walk-off, on the last pitch before Katie Seashole Pressly is renovated, came on a 2-2 pitch after she fouled off a pair of strikes. She had been using a 24-ounce bat because of missing the entire fall after tearing an ACL in high school and losing some of her lower body strength.

In fact, Walton shared a story about a Facetime call with Matthews’ mother Nadia Martinez before the season when mom wondered if her daughter would even play this year because of her injury.

“I hope she plays every game,” Walton said at the time.

She has at least two more as second-seeded Florida (55-9) advances to the WCWS for the ninth time and will face seventh-seeded Georgia in the first game at 7 p.m. Thursday (ESPN2).

The home run was the climax to a game with more layers than the royal wedding cake.

This is how crazy it was — Florida’s ace pitcher gave up more hits than she has in a game all season and the winning pitcher gave up what looked like a soul-crushing homer in the top of the seventh. Oh, and Florida had two runners thrown out at the plate and the winning coach was ripping his own decision about pitching before anyone could Tweet him about it.

It was wild and crazy and sweaty and intense for seven spectacular innings with one spectacular ending.

Kelly Barnhill kept pitching in and out of trouble for Florida and the Gators got a pair of runs in the fourth and the fifth on two-out singles by Hannah Adams and Janell Wheaton.

When Texas A&M loaded the bases with nobody out in the sixth, Walton pulled Barnhill for Aleshia Ocasio. The senior got out of the inning with only one run scoring on a wild pitch.

“She pitched her butt off,” Walton said.

Ocasio struck out the first two batters she faced in the seventh and the crowd of 2,068 was poised to celebrate.

But A&M’s Sarah Hudek, who had seven hits for the three games, hit a soft single to right to keep the Aggies alive.

That brought up Tori Vidales, who won Friday night’s game with a three-run homer off Ocasio.

“Before anyone Tweets me or texts me or calls me, that was a dumb decision to not bring Barnhill back,” Walton said. “I obviously should have. It was dumb on my part. I had a gut feeling and I didn’t go with my gut.”

Vidales blasted a two-run homer off Ocasio, who had seen Florida’s WCWS hopes die two years earlier on a walk-off homer by Georgia to the same spot, and Texas A&M (44-18) was three outs from taking the win.

“You’re on top of the world,” said Aggies coach Jo Evans, “and then it comes crashing down.”

Two walks gave Florida hope but Wheaton was called out on a 3-2 pitch on the corner and Florida’s season was down to its last out.

Enter Matthews.

“I was thinking, ‘Did that really just happen?’ “ Wheaton said. “I’ve already watched it five times. If I have bruises on my body from the celebration, I’m not feeling them.”

There was only one feeling for this team Saturday night.

“That was a ‘Holy Bleep’ moment,” Walton said. “You say, ‘Wow,’ what a game.”

WCWS Glance Thursday

Arizona State vs. Oregon, 12 p.m., ESPN

Washington vs. Oklahoma, 2:30 p.m., ESPN

Georgia vs. Florida, 7 p.m., ESPN2

Florida State vs. UCLA, 9:30 p.m., ESPN2


  1. Jordan Matthews, just saved Walton’s butt from making the same mistake he made last night, by once again letting Vidales get pitched to, instead of walking her. Worse case the same result as letting her hit. Got to learn a lesson here, don’t let the opponents best hitter beat you.

  2. Hey Sparky…what you know about baseball or softball strategy couldn’t begin to fill a thimble. I am happy but not enamored by your less than astute comments. A Gator for 60 years. Go Gators

  3. What an amazing finish to an ”epic” series, U.F. vs. A & M. You gotta’ give those Aggies props, but in the end the Gators are heading to another W.C.W.S. And, ultimately, that all that matters now.
    Chomp-on Gators and congrats!

  4. I apologize for defending the coaches as much as I do. Everybody sitting On their fat butt can comment after the game is over about decisions that a coach has seconds to make. Be proud of the fact that we have GREAT COACHES AND PLAYERS. GO GATORS!

    • Ever hear of a scouting reports Sparky. Coaches have more than seconds to make most decisions. You’re comments; other than you are obviously a Gator, are not reflecting of the kind of Gator I am proud of being associated with, so let’s let it go at that. Have a nice day!

  5. There were a lot of plays that can be second guessed. However, in the end all that matters is that the Gators won and are going to the CWS.

    The one thing I will say is that the Gators are taking too many good pitches instead of swinging because they are looking to draw a walk. I believe that this is a mistake. If the ball is out of the zone don’t swing. Take the walk if they are not throwing strikes. But if the ball is in the zone and its something you can hit, then be aggressive and swing away. I said it before, that I know they have drawn lots of walks this season. However, in championship games when you get runners on base you have to drive them in. You have to get hits and score runs. Looking to draw a walk instead of looking for a pitch to drive is being too passive This strategy will cost them a win rather than earn them a win. I would like to see the Gators be more aggressive and not take good pitches just because they are looking to draw walks. Swing at good pitches and get hits and score runs.

    Hats off to Matthews. She did not let the pressure get to her and she hit a bomb. Ocasio is her new best friend.

    Go girls. Great win. We all thought it was over. You showed us your toughness and that you can swing the bat and score runs. Now do it in the CWS. Bring home the trophy.

  6. Hey Sparky, Pops here…unfortunately your name reflects the dimness of your brilliant comments. You aren’t required to have won championships or to have been a coach to be an astute observer of ball games. By the way; Walton who is a great coach, had more than a few seconds to make both decisions about pitching to Vidales. His scouting reports told him she was their best hitter. So he made a mistake two nights in a row. It happens! Weren’t you were aware of scouting reports Sparky? Your immaturity showed in your first post but your name is perfect, as it’s obvious that you will always be a spark and never a flame.

  7. Sparky has all the signs of becoming dim & flaming out. Obviously his comment about only having SECONDS to make a decision; such as the one he made about pitching to Vidales in crucial situations two nights in a row, only goes to show his ignorance about sports in general. I guess he has never heard of a scouting report.
    If your not a Gator, your like Sparky, you’re Gatorbait. Have some respect for your elders sonny!

  8. The personal attacks(pissing contest)here make me think this board is mostly made of young children.
    As for the lady Gators, this was one of the greatest games I have seen in my 50+ years of watching sports. UF about to win, then Vidales(wish UF had her on our roster) almost wins it with her second game winning HR of the series, but freshman Mathews hits a walk off HR with 2 out and 2 strikes! Unbelieveable.

  9. I know that there will be very few Texas A & M fans checking in here. However, I want to compliment their team. I know that it is heartbreaking to lose like they did, but they can be proud of their team. They played us toe to toe and almost beat us. They hit the crap out of the ball and took our best shots. They are a great team. They never gave up. They also showed class in losing.

    • Joel, that’s a stand-up comment. The TAMU ladies represented themselves and their school well. They showed incredible determination to come back from that devastating implosion in Game 1, win Game 2, and take the Gators to the last strike in Game 3. Great series Aggies!

  10. I coached baseball for a long time. Walton’s decision was really the right one. Maybe he should have reentered Barnhill but hey she was getting hit all day. Ocasio is a drop ball pitcher and has a better chance of inducing a grounder. She just left it a little too high over the plate. It happens. In the end the Gators were up by a run. Once A&M got a runner on, you are in a situation where you never and I mean never want to put the winning run on base via a walk. You have to take your chances even if they have their best hitter up. Walton knows his team and he knows how to coach. I would never second guess him. Cudos to Matthews. That is a hit she will never ever forget and one that will be remembered for a long time by all Gator fans. I think it is fitting that it was the last at bat in their current stadium. What a way to go out. Go Gators!

    • If he walks her and she ends up scoring, the same posters will second guess his decision. Coach says the plan was to let. Barnhill come back in to face her, but his gut told him to leave Ocasio in. Gut feelings are a huge part of coaching, and Walton is one of the best we’ve ever had.
      Go Gators

      • That’s what fans, coaches, etc. do. They second, third, forth, fifth, etc. guess. It’s called Monday morning quarterbacking, etc. It’s perfectly normal, part of life, and there’s nothing wrong with it. That’s what forums are for to express your opinion and hopefully have some fun. Yes, the downside is it does get nasty at times. Apparently, you think everyone has to share your point of view and they can’t have their own but I really don’t know Sparky! It’s strange that ‘s for sure!

  11. Now, this is more like it with the number of comments. These softball Gators deserve our attention as much as any Gator program…even if the main focus seems to be loyal Gator fans questioning each other’s intelligence and “fanhood” (if that’s a word). Everyone has a right to post his/her comments, both positive and negative, as long as they’re not obscene. However, nobody should expect that their comments won’t be challenged by other posters. Debate is a good thing…and part of the fun of being a fan.

    That said, go Gators! Bring home another trophy.

  12. when it it got to 3 and one I was screaming walk her she on a hot streak,but our coach has won two national champs and he gets paid to make those calls while I get to say I was right after its over,wonder if I recall how many times I was wrong,we won enjoy it