It was 40 minutes before the game when Florida softball fans already battling the sun could figure out who the starting pitcher would be with the season on the line.
Kelly Barnhill was in the outfield, firing long underhand bullets to a catcher.
Tim Walton didn’t have to wait that long.
“I walked out of the press conference (Saturday night) knowing she was going to pitch,” said the Florida coach.
Despite pitching a complete game on Friday and into the ninth inning on Saturday, Walton knew his best chance to get to Oklahoma City was his All-American senior.
But he also knew she had to be pulled because she was mentally spent Saturday night. All of the training equipment she took home Saturday night and ice baths and stretching exercises helped the physical part of it.
Would she be there mentally?
The answer is as simple as her line:
Eight innings, four hits, one run allowed.
“If this was going to be a chance for possibly our last game of the season,” Barnhill (34-12) said, “I wanted to be in control.”
And she was, walking only one batter and pitching Florida to the Women’s College World Series.
Barnhill’s performance, especially after pitching to all but two batters heading into the deciding game, was the stuff of legends.
She threw 383 pitches for the series and 103 of them on Sunday in the eight-inning game won by Florida 2-1.
“She showed some toughness today,” said Walton. “’She gave up a homer to tie the game and she got even better.”
That home run in the seventh tied the game at one, but Barnhill retired the next six batters to set up the high drama of the eighth inning and Jaimie Hoover’s walk-off hit.
Barnhill brushed off the heavy workload, probably because of the “OKC BOUND” hat she was wearing.
“It was awesome,” she said of 383 pitches. “We’re going to OKC. Pitch count doesn’t matter to me. It’s more how my body is feeling.
“A lot of time you get in a zone and you don’t feel any aches and pains you have. I was going to push through and grind through. I was going to get it done today.”
Because she did, the senior’s career is extended. And Walton gave away to worst secret in America on Sunday evening.
“There’s a pretty good chance she’ll pitch Thursday,” Walton said.