Tennessee came out with an aggressive approach to Saturday’s Gainesville Super Regional game against Florida, but it was a passive at-bat that ended up winning the game for the Vols.
Haley Bearden took ball four with the bases loaded in the ninth inning to give Tennessee a 3-2 win and extend this Super Regional another day.
“That was an exceptional at-bat by Haley,” said Tennessee co-coach Karen Weekley. “That was a big moment and you can chase something there.”
Natalie Lugo walked in the run on a 3-2 pitch just a bit off the corner and ended a game that went almost four hours and saw a Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium record crowd of 3,140.
Lugo replaced Katie Chronister, who pitched to one batter in the inning and gave up a single. Kelly Barnhill was pulled after two walks in the ninth and 158 pitches.
“(She was) gassed,” said Florida coach Tim Walton. “When you call a rise ball and they are bouncing, that’s when you know.”
And so it is Florida (48-16) vs. Tennessee (43-16) at 2 p.m. Sunday with nothing more on the line than a trip to the Women’s College World Series.
“We’ve been battling tough situations all year long,” said shortstop Sophia Reynoso. “It’s not the spot we wanted to be in, but we’re mentally prepared for it.”
Walton was non-committal on his choice for a pitcher today and said he considered pulling Barnhill in the fifth inning to save her for the final.
“But we tied it back up and she went back out there,” he said. “Like I told you guys, there is not a secret formula to this. At the end of the day she could come out and throw a really, really good game.”
Barnhill (33-13) battled throughout but allowed nine hits and walked four batters. Still, the Gators had their chances to take the lead several times and fell short of getting one more hit.
The Vols scored the first run against the Gators in the NCAA Tournament this year in the first inning.
Chelsea Seggeren singled home the run, one of three hits Barnhill allowed to the first four batters of the game.
Florida tied it in the fourth when Jaimie Hoover hit a sharp single off the third base bag to bring home a run. Tennessee responded with a run on Madison Pacini’s single.
In the top of the fifth, the Gators tied it again on a sharp single by Hannah Adams to bring home Amanda Lorenz, who broke the SEC record for career walks earlier in the inning.
From that point on, both teams had plenty of chances to score but couldn’t get the big hit into the extra innings. Florida wasted a leadoff double by Adams, who had three hits in the game, in the eighth and Tennessee tried a delayed steal in the bottom of the inning that backfired.
The Vols had been successful in three delayed steal chances earlier in the game.
“We needed to be more aggressive,” Weekly said. “I told these guys you don’t back into anything in this life.”
Tennessee’s Caylan Anold (11-8) got the win with a complete game.
“I felt really in control out there,” she said. “Usually for Super Regionals, I get too pumped up.”
The winner of today’s game will advance to face Oklahoma State in Oklahoma City. The Cowboys, coached by former UF assistant Kenny Gajewski, upset No. 4 seed Florida State on Saturday to advance.
Notes: Lorenz broke the Southeastern Conference record for career walks after she drew her 236thin the top of the fifth inning against the Vols. … The attendance of 3,140 set a Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium record, topping the previous record of 2,574 against Florida State on April 12, 2017
Gainesville Super Regional
Coin flip determines home team for Game 3
At Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium
Friday: Florida 3, Tennessee 0
Saturday: Tennessee 3, Florida 2, 9 innings
Sunday: Florida (48-16) vs. Tennessee (43-16), 2 p.m., ESPNU
Tickets: Contact the Gator Ticket Office