Florida can’t hold back UCLA at WCWS, faces Oklahoma

Florida ace Kelly Barnhill [Photo courtesy UAA]

Special to Gatorsports.com

[Updated 6-2-18, 2:57 p.m.] OKLAHOMA CITY — Third-seeded UCLA made the most of its three hits Friday to defeat second-seed Florida 6-5 to earn a spot in the semifinal round of the Women’s College World Series.

The Gators (56-10) hit three home runs but it wasn’t enough against Bruins ace Rachel Garcia (29-3), who struck out 15, including the side in the seventh. The Gators dropped to the loser’s bracket and will play defending champ Oklahoma (56-4), which eliminated Arizona State 2-0 earlier Saturday, for an elimination game at 7 p.m. today (ESPN). It’s a rematch of last year’s championship series.

The Bruins (58-5) will play in Sunday’s semifinal, needing just one win to advance to the championship series. They advanced after again overcoming a 4-0 deficit on back-to-back nights. On Thursday, it was a rally over FSU.

UF starting pitcher Kelly Barnhill (29-2) allowed just the three hits and struck out 13, but control issues in the fourth inning proved the difference. UF coach Tim Walton was ejected with two outs in the top of the seventh inning after arguing with home plate umpire Brandon Bluhm about the strike zone. An NCAA spokesperson said Walton was not be suspended and will coach Florida’s elimination game Saturday against the winner of the Oklahoma-Arizona State game. Walton was not eligible to speak at the news conference after the game, per NCAA Tournament rules.

UF took the quick lead with a run in the bottom of the first inning when Amanda Lorenz, who reached on an infield error and advanced to third on Kayli Kvistad’s single, slid home after a wild pitch.

Shortstop Sophia Reynoso made it 2-0 UF with a solo home run in the second inning.

Kvistad extended the Gators’ lead to 4-0 in the third inning with a towering two-run home run, driving in Lorenz, who had walked.

Meanwhile, Barnhill was dealing from the circle, striking out the first eight batters she faced and threw out the ninth on a roller back to her.

But Barnhill ran into big trouble in the fourth inning when she committed a throwing error off a bunt, hit a batter and walked another to load the bases.

After walking in a run, Barnhill got Madeline Jelenicki to foul out to Reynoso, who made a great play up the line and near the wall. The UCLA runner at third, Aaliyah Jordan, tagged and raced home. Reynoso’s throw to catcher Janell Wheaton was perfect, but the home plate umpire ruled Jordan safe, instead of being the third out of the inning (replays showed Wheaton putting the tag on Jordan’s back side just before her foot hit home. Replay is not used at the WCWS).

“Yeah, just we did our best on that, and the way it turned out was the way it turned out,” Reynoso said.

UF assistant coach Jennifer Rocha, speaking at the news conference after the game, didn’t want to comment on the controversial play, but did say, “It’s just going to be a matter of resiliency and being able to come back and continuing to play our best softball and just getting one at a time.”

Taylor Pack then hit a three-run home run to give UCLA a 5-4 lead. Pack’s clout was UCLA’s first hit of the game.

“It definitely wasn’t the ideal way to start off the inning,” Barnhill said. “After that, I guess I just didn’t feel exactly locked in. Really wasn’t as sharp as I wanted to be. And when you walk people and make errors, they make you pay for it.”

It was just the third homer of the junior Pack’s career. Pack said she wasn’t looking for anything specific from Barnhill, she was just trying to find the ball.

“I know I’ve been preparing for this all three years that I’ve been here, so I was nervous, but I knew I had nothing to lose here,” Pack said. “So I just kind of put everything I had into that at-bat and I tried to do everything I could for the team.”

Bubba Nickles hit a solo home run in the sixth inning to pad UCLA’s lead to 6-4. It was the 20th home run Barnhill has given up this season.

Jordan Roberts brought UF to within 6-5 in the sixth with her second pinch-hit home run of the WCWS. The Gators threatened for more with runners at the corner with two outs, but Lorenz grounded out.

“I think just going into it, we’re still going to be playing good softball,” said Kvistad,

went 3-for-4 with two RBIs and home run. “That’s what we did today. We put up a good fight. And I think we’re going to go out even stronger. We know everyone in the lineup can turn the game over, and we’re going to work on that and get a good night’s rest and sit tomorrow and hopefully come out with a win.”

NCAA Division I Softball World Series Glance
At ASA Hall of Fame Stadium, Oklahoma City
All Times EDT
Double Elimination; x-if necessary
Oregon 11, Arizona State 6

Washington 2, Oklahoma 0

Florida 11, Georgia 3, 5 innings

UCLA 7, Florida State 4

Washington 6, Oregon 2

UCLA 6, Florida 5

Saturday (All games on ESPN)
Game 7 — Oklahoma 2, Arizona State 0, ASU eliminated

Game 8 — Georgia (48-12) vs. Florida State (52-12), 3 p.m.

Game 9 — Florida (56-10) vs. Oklahoma (56-4), 7 p.m.

Game 10 — Oregon (53-9) vs. Game 8 winner, 9:30 p.m.

Game 11 — Washington (51-8) vs. Oklahoma-Florida winner, 1 p.m.

Game 12 — UCLA (58-5) vs. Game 10 winner, 3:30 p.m.

x-Game 13 — Game 5 winner vs. Game 9 loser, 7 p.m.

x-Game 14 — Game 6 winner vs. Game 10 loser, 9:30 p.m.

NOTE: If only one game is necessary, it will be played at 7 p.m.

Championship Series
Monday: Teams TBD, 7 p.m.

Tuesday: Teams TBD, 8 p.m.

x-Wednesday: Teams TBD, 8:30 p.m.


  1. Wow, what a terrible call by the home plate umpire. It was a close play, but the runner was clearly out. That blown call would have been the 3d out and the Gators would have been up 4-2. Why no replay? The ensuing HR would never have happened. To make it worse, the home plate umpire was calling everything for the UCLA pitcher a strike the whole game. Balls that were a foot off the plate were strikes. Terrible job. It is hard enough to win any game in the CWS with a level playing field, but when the umpire blows calls like this it is terrible. The Gators got robbed. The umpire should be fired. He should not be calling balls in strikes in pee wee.

    • Joel, I agree completely, but the score would’ve been 4-1, rather than 4-2, if the proper call was made. The run that scored on the play was the second run. It gets worse with the ball and strike calls. On the walk to Garcia to load the bases, Barnhill threw what should’ve been strike 3 on the 2-2 count. That would’ve been the first out, meaning the next walk would’ve only loaded the bases, the following strikeout would’ve been the second out, and Reynoso’s catch of the pop-up would’ve ended the inning without allowing UCLA to score a single run. The plate umpire decided the game with poor ball and strike calls and one bad “safe” call. It makes no sense that the men have instant re-play for calls like that, but the women don’t.

  2. Whoever wrote this article should really address the overall issues with the umpire, not just the one call. When the neutral announcers are even talking about how bad it is, it becomes a part of the game. Bad calls happen, but getting hosed, that becomes a part of the story.

    • The fact that he missed the call at home was due to his being out of position to make that call. He was behind Wheaton and could not have seen whether the tag was made or not. I noticed that he didn’t ask for any help after making the call as well. Who knows what would have happened if the correct call had been made but the fact that UF would have been out of the inning and up 4-1 is huge. I have watched Gator Softball for many years as well. Never seen Walton come unglued like that. He had good reason to complain. It would seem if he’s complaining about the strike zone AFTER we got the “K” that the ump should have handled the situation differently. There was NO reason to toss him. Unfortunately I think it contributed to the strike zone getting wider during our at bat in the bottom if the 7th. When the ladies in the booth are openly questioning calls there had to be something to it. Never heard any of them blatantly say “That was a bad call” during any other broadcast. Long road back now but these girls should be playing with a chip on their shoulder from here out. Good luck to them today. Maybe they’ll get a more competent ump behind the plate today. GO GATORS!!!!!

      • I agree’ the ump was in the worst position to make that call. Looking only directly at the plate and the runner’s feet. Clearly this guy hosed us. If u consider all the really bad calls on balls and strikes u might even think it was intentional as UCLA’ pitcher enjoyed a generous strike zone. U could see it on the Gator batters faces that they felt they needed to swing at anything close. Consequently the flurry of strikeouts to close the game. Here’s hoping that Ump gets disqualified from calling any future WCWS games!!!

  3. I’ve been watching their softball games for over 20 years and that was the worst officiated game I have ever seen. The NCAA should be embarrassed. It affected the whole outcome of the game. There was also a missed runner interference call besides the blown call at the plate. She was out by 6 inches and he was right on top of it. When batters cannot even foul off the pitch because the strike zone is so wide, it becomes obvious. I would send that tape in. That guy should not be a ref at any level. We were joking afterwards he must have had money on the Bruins and there was a UCLA alum in our group. She said it hurt to win it like that…

  4. Hopefully, a game like this will help bring in instant replay on close plays at first and home. Barnhill was great, but I agree with the announcers, who are both USA softball hall of fame pitchers so they know what they’re talking about, but the simple throwing error to first to start the 4th inning really seemed to shake her up and cause her to loose her edge. After giving up the second HR to give UCLA a two-run lead, you could see anger in her eyes, and she totally ran through the last 4-5 UCLA batters like she did the first 9. They can beat this team, but they’ll have to win three more games now to play them again. Keep your heads up girls….you played well enough to win, just didn’t get the calls that you should have.

  5. Umpires who call pitches 10 inches of plate a strike need to be fired if I were Tim Walton I would have kicked that plate umpires ass he was pitiful blown tag on runner is inexcusable to lose because of a sorry umpire is pitiful go gators

  6. Echoing other posters but I’ve been in and around baseball most of my life and been watching Gators softball for many years. The worst officiated softball game I’ve ever watched. Ucla runner was clearly out. Strike zone was one-sided. Agree with gatorhopeful, softball needs in have play reviews and challenges. Tim Walton and Uf should protest this game, send in the tape to Ncaa. Result of last nights game would have been much different. Instead, our Gators have to get past it and move on. Keep playing hard ladies. Go Gators!

  7. The umping was truly awful. But the Gators continue their passive early count appearances at the plate. The Gators continue to look at fat strikes early in the count. Even the announcers kept commenting on it. This puts more pressure on them behind later in the count. More aggression will be required to get out of the losers bracket.

    • Gator Steve, I think the Gators were much better being aggressive early in the game, but not so much at crunch-time. Kvistad’s HR came on the first pitch, but she let a similar pitch go for strike one in the bottom of the seventh. Lorenz did the same thing in the bottom of the sixth. That said, five runs were enough to win this game. The plate umpire’s poor performance cost the Gators this game.

  8. No question the bad call cost UF the game. That said, Barnhill became unraveled after her error. Make that simple play and the 4th inning is a shutout, UF still has a four run lead. This happened to her last year a couple times in the postseason.
    My question is, if she can’t throw accurately overhand, either practice that, or just throw underhand to first! She could knock a tick off a dog’s back throwing it 70mph underhand, so throw underhand to first. It can’t take any longer than lobbing it overhand.
    Heartbreaking game that UF should won.

    • True, and there were some bad ball and strike calls against UCLA, but in this game you can’t point to a call that hurt the Bruins the way the plate call hurt the Gators. In this age of technology, there’s no reason not to use re-play for calls like that. It was close in real time, so I’m not saying there was bias, but there’s no need to get that call wrong. If the re-play showed the runner was actually safe, I’d be disappointed, but satisfied that the right call was made. Great teams overcome adversity, but that was unnecessary adversity.

  9. I was SURPRISED that Coach Walton did NOT get thrown out sooner. The historic W.C.W.S. had an AWFUL Ump OFFICIATING last night, and that shouldn’t be… PERIOD! The Gators may have lost anyway, but with the calls that Ump made, they had very little chance to win that game.
    Go Gators! P.S.- the BEST REVENGE is playing great from here on out!

  10. Go over to ESPN.com search for college softball…the arlicle on the Gator/ucla game has the video of the play at the plate. ESPN has the video paused showing the tag, and the runner’s foot at least 6+ inches from the plate!!!

  11. It’s hard enough to win a game in the CWS, but to lose because of a terrible call by the umpire is not fair to the players who give everything they have to be successful. The umpire was out of position to make the call. He was making up his own strike zone against the Gators toward the end of the game. Coach Walton had every right to point out his incompetence. The umpire should be sent home, but sadly it probably want happen. The NCAA should embarrassed. Go Gators

    • I don’t think the call was terrible – it was just proven WRONG on replay. It was bang/bang. Now – having said that – I believe that the benefit of the doubt should always be given to the defense when a great throw and tag results in the close play.

  12. Unless the rule in softball is different than baseball, that fateful inning started with what I believe was another missed call by the home plate ump. When a batter is running to first base after a batted ball, he or she is required to run to the outside of the baseline to allow the fielder throwing to first a clear lane. Based on the several replays I saw, this clearly did not happen. Again, the rule may be different in softball, but it was pretty clear that runner interference should have been called meaning the batter would be called out. It was all down hill from there. That said, I could see that Barnhill was shaken when she hit the second batter she faced after the blown call and I had a pretty strong sense of a meltdown in the making, and sure enough, it happened. At times this year it seems she loses her focus when things go awry. Proud of our girls for how they hung in there, and proud of Walton for getting tossed standing up for his team with that ump!

  13. While the loss was bad I find it laughable that everyone is blaming the umpire. Did the umpire have a meltdown in the ucla big inning? Did the ump throw away a simple toss to first base for an error? Did the ump hit a batter? Did the ump hang a couple of pitches that were hit out of the park? Stop blaming the umpire for the failure of our pitcher.

  14. The umpires call at home was a bang bang play. Umps make the wrong call all the time however unfortunately we don’t have instant replay (yet) in the women’s cws
    Now on the other hand he sucked calling balls and strikes and should never call another game as long as he lives.
    Go Gators and overcome!!

  15. It was clearly obvious Kelly was shaken up. Coach should’ve put in Alesia just to finish the inning and let kelly regroup herself. She could’ve been put back in the game the next inning after she settled down