Pitcher Kelly Barnhill took a step forward, whirled her arm around and fired.
The softball zipped past Alabama right fielder KB Sides’ bat and nestled nicely into catcher Jordan Roberts’ glove.
Strike three. Game over.
Barnhill ripped off her pitcher’s mask and yelled in excitement. Her teammates soon joined her in the circle, creating a crowd of jumping, screaming, jubilant Gators to cap off an incredible four days of softball.
First baseman Amanda Lorenz’s two-RBI double in the top of the sixth inning stood as the game-winner in a 2-1 win for sixth-seeded Florida, who upset top-seeded Alabama to win the SEC Tournament.
The Gators (44-15) have now won back-to-back SEC Tournaments and five overall.
Barnhill allowed just two hits and one earned run over seven innings along with six strikeouts and six walks. She was named tournament MVP after throwing 21 innings, giving up only five hits and one run and striking out 24 batters.
UF had multiple chances to score early on in the game but, like it has all season, couldn’t convert with runners on base. It stranded eight runners before Lorenz’s double in the sixth inning, which was its only hit all night with runners in scoring position.
After Florida stranded two runners in the top of the fourth, Alabama (52-7) finally scored the game’s first run in the bottom of the inning.
Sides walked and first baseman Bailey Hemphill singled. The Crimson Tide then had runners on the corners following a fielder’s choice. Left fielder Merris Schroder chopped a ground ball to shortstop Sophia Reynoso, who opted for the out at first, allowing Sides to score.
Alabama had an opportunity to widen the margin after loading the bases following a single, but Barnhill ended the inning with a strikeout and a ground out.
In the top of the sixth inning, with two outs, Florida coach Tim Walton sent freshman Cheyenne Lindsey in to pinch-hit. She smacked pitcher Montana Fouts’ first pitch for a double to keep the inning alive.
Walton sent in another pinch-hitter, with sophomore Jordan Matthews coming in for center fielder Alex Voss. Matthews worked Fouts to a 3-2 count before drawing a walk to set the stage for Lorenz.
With the count 3-2, Lorenz hit a line drive down the third-base line that was just barely fair and dribbled down the line. Two runs scored, and Lorenz ended up on second. The Gators couldn’t tack on any more runs in the inning, but as it turned out, they didn’t need to.
Florida came into the SEC Tournament with a .500 record in conference play and needing a couple wins to secure a super regional at home. After trailing 5-2 in the first game to South Carolina, they looked poised for an early exit.
Instead, they rallied in the seventh inning for four runs to walk off against the Gamecocks, edged out third-seeded LSU and 10th-seeded Auburn with 3-0 wins and stunned an Alabama team that had only lost seven games all season to win the SEC Tournament.
The Gators now wait to see what the bracket for the NCAA Tournament will look like. It will be unveiled Sunday at 9 p.m. on ESPN.
Follow Brendan Farrell on Twitter @Bfarrell727. Contact him at [email protected].