In the top of the first inning, Ole Miss Rebel Kylan Becker drove the ball to left field to successfully reach first base.
The hard hit was uncharacteristic for Florida pitcher Kelly Barnhill. She currently allows an average of two hits per game, the lowest in the NCAA.
As Becker aimed to steal second, but instead reached third base off a Gator error, the crowd tensed, wondering how Barnhill would respond.
The answer was with a strikeout to end the inning, shutting down any previous momentum Mississippi once had.
It was intense pitching by Barnhill that clinched the 2-0 Florida win over Ole Miss Friday night at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium.
Barnhill connected on 16 strikeouts on the evening, tying her season-high. A pair of hits, both made by Becker, was all she would allow.
“I had a little bit of trouble getting back in the zone, but the low-rise was really working,” Barnhill said. “I was really happy with it.”
The Marietta, Georgia, native was just a couple pitches shy of hitting her career high 18 strikeouts through seven innings.
And it seems that her confidence has lifted as the season has further progressed. In the last five games alone, she has thrown 63 strikeouts.
“Nothing better than having a pitcher going out there and striking a lot of people out” coach Tim Walton said. “Having the ability to throw your rise ball in three different planes…it’s like six different pitches in one.”
While Florida’s (42-3, 16-2 SEC) defense didn’t have to worry about too many hits coming its way due to Barnhill’s pitching, its offense stood out.
The Gators secured seven hits in the win, namely behind sophomore Amanda Lorenz and junior Aleshia Ocaiso, who each had a pair.
Florida quickly went up 2-0 in the bottom of the first inning, never looking back.
Lorenz’s hit to start the inning catalyzed a succession of hits by Florida that eventually led to RBI singles from Ocasio and junior Kayli Kvistad.
“I thought that our offense was good tonight,” Kvistad said. “It wasn’t great, but we got the hits we needed.”
The team was also able to work on its bunts, with junior Nicole DeWitt tapping one right down the third base line to reach first in the bottom of the fifth.
After Florida jumped to an early lead, they never once looked back nor had to worry about the Rebels making any sort of run.
“The key for me is make our hitters have the ability to not have to think about hitting home runs to win the game,” Walton said. “To just be able to do the little things. We did that today.”
The No. 1 Gators will aim to continue doing the “little things” as they seek to clinch the SEC series over No. 18 Ole Miss tomorrow at 4 p.m.