Barnhill-led Gators blank LSU to advance to SEC semifinals

Florida pitcher Kelly Barnhill (center) gets the win Thursday. [Cyndi Chambers/Correspondent/File]

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COLLEGE STATION, Texas — Senior All-American pitcher Kelly Barnhill was in command Thursday to help No. 6 seed Florida to a 3-0 win over 3 seed LSU and a spot in Friday’s SEC softball tournament semifinals.

Florida (42-15) will play 10 seed Auburn (37-18), a 2-0 winner over two seed Tennessee in Thursday night’s quarterfinal, at 4:30 p.m. Friday on ESPN2. LSU (40-16) will await its NCAA tournament destination during the Selection Show at 9 p.m. Sunday. The semifinal winners Friday play for the league tournament title at 8 p.m. Saturday on ESPN2.

Barnhill (28-11) set down 13 LSU batters in a row and struck out five of the last nine to close out the game and her 11th shutout of the season. LSU was held scoreless for just the third time all season.

“The game plan was to change things and go with the two-seam fastball,” Barnhill said. “It was the game-changer.

“I’ve been here for four years now and everyone plans for my riseball. But the two-seam fastball made all the difference today.”

UF went up 1-0 in the first after Amanda Lorenz doubled and scored on Jordan Roberts’ single.

The lead became 3-0 with two runs in the second inning on Lorenz’s run-scoring single and Kendyl Lindaman’s RBI grounder.

Barnhill struck out five of the six batters she faced in the fifth and six innings. She set down the side in order in the seventh. The only hit Barnhill gave up with a bunt single in the third. She walked just one.

“It takes the load off the pitcher’s shoulders when the offense can score some runs early,” Barnhill said. “It helps so much.”