After Oklahoma State forced a winner-takes-all game in the NCAA Gainesville Regional, the No. 1-seeded Gators softball team turned to its senior pitcher to get the job done.
Delanie Gourley had pitched a no-hitter through five innings against Florida A&M in the first game of the NCAA Regional and watched as Kelly Barnhill struck out 15 batters in the second game against Oklahoma State.
But after the Cowgirls took a 1-0 victory over Barnhill in game three of the regional, it was all up to Gourley to save Florida's season.
Continuing her recent stretch of strong play in the postseason, the Lakeside, California, native struck out 11 and allowed one hit en route to a 5-0 win.
“That’s for this weekend too,” Gourley said on bringing her performance from the regionals to the super regionals. “I’m going to give it my all. Our team is going to give it their all cause not one of our players is done.”
With regionals behind them, the Gators (53-7) can now focus on their last roadblock to the Women’s College World Series: No.16-seeded Alabama.
The Crimson Tide (45-16) swept through the Tuscaloosa Regional, which included two close 1-0 wins against Minnesota.
Alabama had pitching performances almost on par with Florida, allowing just one run in three games and surrendering only 10 hits.
“Alabama has a great pitching staff, but I think what works in our favor is that we have a great pitching staff, too,” outfielder Amanda Lorenz said. “So we’re used to facing them every week in practice. If we can learn to hit our pitchers, we can hit other pitchers too.”
While both teams are ready for tonight's contest at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium, there is still a little bit of uncertainty from both sides.
The Crimson Tide and the Gators didn’t play each other in the 2017 regular season, with their last meeting resulting in a 2-1 series win for Alabama in April 2016.
But with a new year comes a new set of circumstances.
Barnhill was still in her freshman campaign, and the Gators had five seniors in the lineup while the Tide had four.
So while the pitching hasn’t changed much, the batters and the fielders have, making this matchup feel different than before.
Florida will also be looking for different than what it did in last year' super regional, where it fell to Georgia in a two-game sweep, cutting its quest for a third-straight national championship short.
“I don’t think you really can learn anything from that because it was a team that beat us,” coach Tim Walton said. “They were better than we were on that particular two days. This isn’t the same team nor is it the same opponent.”
Contact Jake Dreilinger at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @DreilingerJake.
Kelly Barnhill stares down home plate during Florida’s 5-0 win against Georgia on April 8, 2017, at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium.