Kelly Barnhill stumped the UCF offense Wednesday.
The freshman gave up just one run in five innings of work as No. 2 Florida beat the Knights 3-1. UF (35-3) capitalized on a subpar pitching performance from UCF’s (24-14) 2015 All-American Shelby Turnier.
Kelsey Stewart singled on the first pitch to kick-start Florida’s offense. Fellow senior Kirsti Merritt got pegged by a pitch, and freshman Amanda Lorenz walked to load the bases with no outs. After a pop out and a strikeout, junior Chelsea Herndon reached safely on a fielder’s choice, bringing home Stewart to put UF up 1-0.
After Turnier walked Taylore Fuller with the bases loaded, Merritt scored, putting the Gators up by two.
With the 2-0 lead, Barnhill (13-0) went to work.
She struck out six batters in the first three innings and didn’t give up a hit until the fourth.
But after giving up a leadoff walk and a single to start the bottom of the fourth, Barnhill was pinned with no outs and runners on first and third. But the freshman struck out the next hitter and induced a 5-4-3 double play to close the inning.
"I thought Kelly and Delanie (Gourley) did a really nice job tonight," coach Tim Walton said in a release. "However, the play Nicole DeWitt made in the fourth inning for us to turn that double play was the difference in the game."
The Knights finally got to Florida in the fifth.
Barnhill hit the leadoff batter, who advanced to second on a sacrifice fly.
Jasmine Acevedo slapped a single to right-center field, driving in a run and cutting the lead to 2-1.
The Knights kept up the pressure in the bottom of the sixth.
After a leadoff walk and a single, Walton swapped Barnhill for Gourley.
Barnhill left the game after striking out seven, walking three and giving up three hits.
Soon after, Gourley got out of the inning with a flyout and two strikeouts.
Merritt started the top of the seventh with a double to right-center. Then Lorenz, who went 2-for-3, stepped up and singled to left-center. A walk loaded the bases, and then junior Nicole DeWitt walked to drive in Merritt, giving Florida its third run.
Despite loaded bases and no outs, Turnier got out of the inning without giving up any more runs, and Florida went into the bottom of the seventh up 3-1.
"Offensively I thought our at bats are good, but we just didn’t get a hit when we had runners in good situations," Walton said.
Gourley retired UCF’s last three batters in a row to put the game on ice. The lefty earned her third save of the season and second this week.
Florida will take the field again Friday at 7 p.m. for a three-game series against Ole Miss in Oxford.
Kelly Barnhill pitches during UF's doubleheader sweep of Jacksonville on Feb. 27, 2016, at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium.