Kelly Barnhill

Junior Kelly Barnhill allowed just her second earned run of the season in her complete game against Maryland Friday. 

The crowd at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium fell silent in the top of the fourth inning. Then, it erupted in cheers as UF softball players funneled out of their dugout.

With the bases loaded and no outs, first baseman Kayli Kvistad belted a line drive to left center off Illinois State pitcher Shannon Felde. The ball crept over the wall, good for a grand slam and Kvistad’s first home run of the season.

Her grand slam reflected the offensive production Florida churned out all day Friday. The Gators (12-1) defeated the Terrapins and Illinois State by respective scores of 7-2 and 10-1 on the first day of their annually hosted Aquafina Invitational.

Florida had high quality at-bats early, scoring in the first inning of both games on Friday night.

Amanda Lorenz doubled off the wall to left center, allowing leadoff batter Hannah Adams and third baseman Nicole DeWitt to circle the bases from and put the Gators up 2-0 before Maryland could even cause an out.

“It’s important for us to kind of jump on teams in the first inning and get momentum going our way,” Kvistad said.

Later in the inning with two outs and Lorenz on third, Kvistad skied a sacrifice fly to extend the lead to 3-0.

The Terrapins (3-8) cut the lead to two in the top of the third. With shortstop Mikayla Werahiko on second, second baseman Skylynne Ellazar singled to right-center and brought Werahiko home.

However, Florida answered in the bottom of the inning. With two outs and the bases loaded, pinch hitter Aleshia Ocasio singled into left field, scoring catcher Janell Wheaton and reinstating UF’s three-run lead.

Wheaton widened the lead in the fourth. After the Gators drew three consecutive walks to load the bases, Maryland made a call to the bullpen. Wheaton coaxed a fourth walk to bring in Lorenz from third. She was followed by a fifth straight walk from Jordan Roberts off a third Terrapins pitcher to add another run.

After a Sophia Reynoso ground out to second drove in Kvistad, the Gators held a 7-1 advantage.

Pitcher Kelly Barnhill gave up her first home run of the year in the top of the fifth. Pinch hitter Hannah Eslick knocked a solo shot just inside the left foul pole to cut the UF lead to five runs.

Barnhill finished out the final two innings by giving up just one hit after the Maryland homer. She ended with just one earned run allowed and struck out nine on a season-high 117 pitches.

In its second matchup with Illinois State (4-8), UF batted first as the away team.
Outfielder Jordan Matthews started the scoring. DeWitt scored for the second time on the night on a single by the outfielder.

However, pitcher Katie Chronister loaded the bases in the bottom of the second and walked in a run with two outs.

After allowing a one-out single in the third, coach Tim Walton decided that Chronsiter’s night was over. He called in Ocasio from center field to relieve and thrust the senior into a tricky circumstance for the second time of the night -- she pinch hit with the bases loaded against Maryland. 

Ocasio retired all five Redbirds she faced, picking up four strikeouts and her fifth win of the season.

“Le Le (Ocasio) is an amazing athlete,” Barnhill said. “It is so hard to fathom how she can do so many things and be great at all of them… Her gloves are her hats.”

With experience in the circle, the Gators picked it up offensively. Roberts crushed a two-run home run in the fourth to put Florida on top 3-1. In the top of the fifth inning, UF loaded the bases for Matthews in the cleanup spot.

Matthews struck her second RBI single of the game to center field and was followed by the game’s exclamation point, Kvistad’s grand slam, which pushed the game past the eight-run rule. 

“We’ve seen so many pitchers in the last 6-7 games,” Walton said. “I think we did a good job of being disciplined… I’ve counted only three or four bad swings in the last seven games.”

Florida continues play in its home invitational Saturday afternoon with a rematch against Maryland at 2.

Follow Mark Stine on Twitter @mstinejr and contact him at [email protected].

Mark Stine is sports editor for the Independent Florida Alligator. He's a senior at UF and has written softball, women's soccer, men's tennis and cross country in the past.