Florida pitcher Kelly Barnhill stood on the mound in the top of the seventh inning with a runner on first base. With two outs in the inning and a 2-2 count on the batter, Barnhill was ready.
The sophomore pitcher was just one out away from sending her team back to the Women’s College World Series.
She wound up the pitch and blew it past Alabama left fielder Rachel Bobo for the strikeout.
Behind a dominant performance from Barnhill, the Gators (55-8) defeated the Crimson Tide (47-17) 2-1 in game three of the NCAA Super Regional to advance to the Women’s College World Series.
“It was amazing to be able to get that out and then have everyone out there celebrating together because we're all so excited to go to OKC,” Barnhill said. “It's an amazing feeling to be able to be a contributor to help our team get there.”
The story of the game was the pitching from both sides.
Barnhill took a couple innings to settle in. In the top of the first, the Marietta, Georgia, native put two on base after walking Alabama’s Chandler Dare on four pitchers and hitting Marisa Runyon two batters later.
In the top of the second, Barnhill gave up a triple to Bobo and an RBI single to Elissa Brown to give the Crimson Tide their first and only score of the game.
After that slip-up, she dominated Alabama, retiring the side from the third to the sixth innings. Barnhill finished the game with 12 strikeouts and allowed just two hits.
She was backed, though, by a strong start from the Florida offense.
UF left fielder Amanda Lorenz led off the bottom of the first with a single, and first baseman Kayli Kvistad walked on the next at-bat. An Aleshia Ocasio single scored in Lorenz, and a Jordan Roberts hit-by-pitch with the bases loaded gave Florida a two run lead.
“I thought we were making solid contact,” Ocasio said. “Obviously, we didn't come out with more hits the first game of the series, but I felt relaxed. We had runners in scoring position with a couple outs, but she threw a pitch over the plate, and I took a chance and swung at it.”
The Gators found more success against Alabama pitcher Alexis Osorio this time around after she shut them out in the first game of the Super Regional. Despite giving up the same number of hits in both games (three), Florida was able to tack on two runs by capitalizing on early mistakes.
And following 1-for-2 performances from Lorenz and Kvistad at the plate, UF was able take the quick lead and never gave it up.
With the win, the Gators moved on to the their eighth Women’s College World Series appearance in program history. The last two times Florida made it to Oklahoma City, it took home the title.
“We have a lot of work to do to figure out how to win games in Oklahoma City, but there are a lot worse problems,” coach Tim Walton said. “I'm proud of these guys for getting us through to the College World Series again.”