Florida followed a familiar formula to advance to another NCAA Super Regional on Sunday.
1. Get a lead.
2. Let Kelly Barnhill take over.
The senior pitcher may not have been overly impressed with her weekend, but she threw six shutout innings to lead the No. 5-seeded Gators past Boise State 5-0.
“I don’t think I threw my best this weekend,” Barnhill said after running her record to 32-11 on the season. “Personally, I think I can do a lot better.”
But here is what she did as Florida swept through the Gainesville Regional — 15 innings, six hits, zero runs allowed.
In six starts since the end of the regular season, Barnhill’s ERA is 0.20 and Florida (47-15) is riding an eight-game winning streak heading into the Supers.
“I could make a lot of money if I knew what it would take to make Kelly the absolute best,” said Florida coach Tim Walton. “Last weekend she threw almost every pitch and she looked about as good as she has looked in her career. And I didn’t throw her as much this week and she wasn’t as good as she was last week.
“I don’t know if there is a secret formula for Kelly Barnhill. She is a unique individual. She gets better as she throws more.”
Florida advances to play next weekend against No. 14 seed Tennessee (42-15), winner of the Knoxville Regional. The Gators will be playing their fifth straight Super Regional against another SEC team.
It will be the seventh straight Super for the Gators and 12th under Walton. Florida will try to advance to the Women’s College World Series for the 10th time.
The NCAA announced Monday that the Super Regional will be 7 p.m. Friday (ESPN2), 6 p.m. Saturday (ESPN) and 2 p.m., if necessary, Sunday (ESPNU).
On Sunday, Florida scored twice in the first inning and never looked back. Amanda Lorenz, who had three hits, led off with a single and eventually scored on a wild pitch. Another run scored on a Sophia Reynoso ground out.
That was all Barnhill would need.
“You get a lead, it even changes the way the other team starts their at-bats,” Barnhill said. “They try to get too big sometimes and overswinging. It makes pitching to them easier.”
A sacrifice fly by Jordan Roberts in the third made it 3-0 and a solo homer from Jaimie Hoover off the pitcher’s shelter in left made it 4-0 in the fourth. It was Hoover’s seventh of the year.
“She does that all the time in practice,” Barnhill said. “We are in the pitching thing and it’s like a bomb shelter. Boom, boom, boom.”
The Gators got a hustle run in the fifth when Cheyenne Lindsey beat out a two-out infield hit and Reynoso scored all the way from second.
“We’re playing with this fearlessness once this postseason started,” Lorenz said. “We have nothing to lose.”
Barnhill kept the Broncos (36-16) grasping for answers, leaving after six innings and allowing only two singles.
“She was really spinning it,” said Boise’s Cora Wade.
A crowd of 1,302 saw Barnhill strike out six batters and walk only one as she recorded her ninth career win in NCAA play. Barnhill’s ERA in NCAA tournament games is now 1.07 with 137 strikeouts.
“The best thing for me is we’re scoring runs, she doesn’t have to be perfect and she’s locating the ball better,” Walton said.
Florida went to Katie Chronister for two outs and Elizabeth Hightower for the final before celebrating another trip to the second weekend of the tournament.
Gainesville Super Regional
Florida plays host to Tennessee (42-15) at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium, 7 p.m. Friday (ESPN2), 6 p.m. Saturday (ESPN) and 2 p.m., if necessary, Sunday (ESPNU).
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