Sophia Reynoso was the only player on the field that knew she was going home.
Attention on the diamond turned toward a close play at first as pinch hitter Cheyenne Lindsey legged out a single to Boise State pitcher Micaela Leal. However, once Leal threw to first, Reynoso darted home.
The UF shortstop’s fingers combed the plate just before Broncos catcher Serena Huchingson tagged her on the foot. Reynoso rose to her feet, and home plate umpire Cameron Ellison outstretched his arms. Safe.
“To me I thought it was a great gamble,” UF coach Tim Walton said. “It’s two outs, and she got a great lead from second base on the previous couple of pitches. She was already prepared for any kind of funky infield hit or something like that where maybe she can push the envelope.”
Reynoso’s fifth-inning run punctuated a 5-0 win over Boise State on Sunday. No. 8 Florida advanced to the NCAA Super Regionals with the victory.
“She controls the heartbeat of our team,” first baseman Amanda Lorenz said of Reynoso. “I just think we’re playing with this fearlessness once postseason started, and I think that’s the perfect example of it.”
The Gators outscored their opponents 16-0 in the NCAA Gainesville Regional. Sunday’s victory made it eight straight for the SEC Tournament champions.
UF will host No. 11 Tennessee or North Carolina in the Super Regionals. It’s the seventh consecutive season it will advance to a super regional, and it’s the 12th time in 14 seasons under Walton.
The Gators scored in the first inning for the second straight game. Lorenz led off with a single then advanced to third following a walk by designated player Kendyl Lindaman and sacrifice bunt by second baseman Hannah Adams. Lorenz scored the day’s first run on a wild pitch from Broncos pitcher Kelsey Broadus.
The senior was the only UF player with multiple hits on Sunday. She went 3 for 4 with a double.
Lindaman touched home on an RBI blooper to right field by Reynoso in the same inning. The play was scored a fielder’s choice as catcher Jordan Roberts was thrown out at second.
Boise State threatened early in the contest as well, but couldn’t convert scoring chances into runs. The Broncos had a runner in scoring position in each of the first two innings, but UF pitcher Kelly Barnhill struck out the final batters of each frame to extinguish the threats.
Barnhill (32-11) started all three Regional contests for the Gators and didn’t allow a run in 15 total innings. She hurled six on Sunday, striking out six batters and allowing only two hits and a walk.
“We all know she can throw hard, and she throws the ball up,” Broncos coach Maggie Livreri said, “but she was doing some different things and spinning the ball some different ways and made it pretty difficult to make adjustments.”
Florida padded its lead in the third and fourth innings. Roberts launched a sacrifice fly to left field that scored pinch runner Lily Mann in the third, while right fielder Jaimie Hoover hammered her seventh home run of the season in the fourth. The solo homer smacked the metal roof of the batting cages in left field and made the tally 4-0.
Reynoso’s run in the fifth made it 5-0, and pitchers Katie Chronister and Elizabeth Hightower closed the game for Barnhill in the seventh.
“I think the best thing for me is we’re scoring runs,” Walton said. “She (Barnhill) doesn’t have to be perfect.”
Follow Mark Stine on Twitter @mstinejr and contact him at [email protected].