Special to The Sun
TAMPA – No. 5 Florida rolled through another edition of the USF Opening Weekend Invitational undefeated with a 2-1 win over N.C. State and 7-1 over host South Florida.
Senior pitcher Kelly Barnhill (4-0) was strong in both starts Sunday and benefitted from stellar relief pitching from Natalie Lugo in the first game with four scoreless innings. Elizabeth Hightower kept USF at bay the final two scoreless innings after Barnhill went five frames and struck out 11. Barnhill surpassed Lauren Haeger (73-12) and is now tied for fourth all-time with Stacey Stevens (74-42) in career victories at UF. Barnhill ended the week with four wins and save through five appearances.
Jordan Matthews gave UF (5-0) the win over N.C. State with a sacrifice fly in the seventh inning.
This is the sixth consecutive season that UF has opened its year at a tournament held by USF and over that span the Gators hold a 28-0 record.
The Gators flexed their muscles in the win over the Bulls by getting a solo home run from Jaimie Hoover, a grand slam from Hannah Adams and a two-run blast by Danielle Romanello.
Florida returns home Tuesday for its first game inside the newly renovated Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium. The Gators will take on Japan in an exhibition at 6 p.m. and will hold a ribbon cutting ceremony outside the main gates at 4 p.m.
Swimming and diving: At Auburn (Ala.) Invitational, the UF women won every individual event on the docket.
Celi Guzman started the meet with a first-place finish in the 200 Back with a personal-best time of 1:57.73. With a personal-best swim of 49.57, Kelsey Dambacher won the 100 Free final. Adrianna DeBoer kept the personal-best streaks going in the 200 Breast where she clocked a career-best 2:14.52 to win. Jillian Hatch closed the individual competition with a victory in the 200 Fly with a personal-best time of 1:59.76.
For the UF men, Ethan Beach and Miguel Cancel tallied individual victories on the final day of competition in Alabama.
Beach got the meet started off with a season-best time of 1:44.02 for the 200 Back win. Cancel posted a personal-best swim of 1:47.44 in the prelims and followed it up with a career-best performance with a time of 1:46.40 on his way to a first-place finish in the 200 Fly final.
On Saturday, Kelsey Dambacher, Adrianna DeBoer and Celi Guzman collected event win on the second day to pace the Gators women.
Dambacher won the 200 Free final with a season-best time of 1:46.56. DeBoer posted a career-best effort of 1:01.08 to win 100 Breast final. Guzman earned another personal-best time with a swim of 54.24 and a first-place finish in the 100 Back final.
For the UF men on Saturday, Miguel Cancel, Viktor Toth and Dakota Mahaffey all won individual events. Cancel won the 400 IM final with a personal-best swim of 3:51.92. Toth won the 200 Free final with a season-best 1:38.90. Mahaffey placed first the 100 Back final with a season-best 48.12.
The Gators have a week off before the SEC Championships begin Feb. 19, in Athens, Georgia.
Women’s basketball: At Athens, Ga., Georgia (14-9, 5-5) routed Florida, 93-58, on Sunday. Kiki Smith registered a team-high 15 points, finishing in double digits for the sixth time in 11 SEC contests for Florida (6-17, 2-9).
The Gators next play at home at 2 p.m. Sunday against No. 12 South Carolina (17-5, 9-1).