Florida Gators softball defeats Alabama to even series

Special report on the Florida Gators softball team:

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Behind six hits and three runs scored by six different Gators, the No. 1-ranked University of Florida softball team evened its series with No. 6 Alabama on Saturday afternoon with a 3-2 win before a season-high crowd (2,241) at KSP Stadium.
The Gators overcame a 2-1 fourth-inning deficit with one run in the bottom of the fourth and one in the fifth to capture the win. Freshman right-hander Kelly Barnhill(12-0) struck out six batters and yielded three hits, two runs and four walks in 5.1 innings pitched. 
Junior Delanie Gourley relieved the rookie in the sixth and tossed the final 1.2 innings to earn her second save of the season.
UF scored the game’s first run on Saturday with in the third inning on one hit. AfterKirsti Merritt was hit by a pitch with one out, rookie Amanda Lorenz powered a double into right-center field to score the senior and give Florida the early lead.
Alabama wasted no time and took the lead on the top of the fourth on a Reagan Dykes two-run home run to left.
Undaunted, Florida answered in their half of the fourth.
Senior Taylor Schwarz tied the game up at 2-2 when she mashed her second home run of the season to left.
UF continued to apply the pressure, as Kelsey Stewart led off the fifth with a single to right. The senior moved to second on a sacrifice bunt and scored on a Kayli Kvistad single to left.
Alabama threatened to tie the game in the top of the seventh when they had a pair of infield singles but they were unable to score.
Team Notes

  • With today’s win, Florida is now 34-2, which is tied with its 2008 and 2009 squads for the best start to a season in school history.
  • UF is now one win away from opening SEC play with four-straight series victories for the first time since 2013.
  • Florida’s senior class is now 207-30, which currently ranks eighth among four-year class records in program history.
  • Tim Walton is now just 14 wins away from his 600th win at Florida.
  • Saturday’s game was broadcast on ESPN2. Florida posted a 15-5 record on national television a season ago and is now 6-1 so far this season.

Stat Watch

  • UF has now outscored its opponents this season, 224-34.
    • In 2015, UF had a plus-187 run differential (257-70) through 36 games.
    • In 2014, UF had a plus-176 run differential (250-74) through 36 games.
  • Florida’s 34 runs allowed through 36 games is the second fewest in school history through this point in any season.
    • UF’s 2009 squad allowed 26 tallies through 35 contests and Florida’s last two NCAA Championship teams had allowed more than 70 runs each, respectively.
  • The Gators have made just 16 errors this season and currently sport one of the best fielding percentages (.983) and earned run averages in the nation (0.85). For comparison, Florida had committed 27 errors through 36 contests last season and had a fielding percentage of .970. UF went on to record a .981 fielding percentage and commit just 33 errors, which were both school records.
  • UF did not allow a stolen base on Saturday, remaining the only team in the SEC who has yet to allow more than three stolen bases in 2016.
    • In addition, three stolen bases is the fewest Florida has allowed in school history through 36 games.

Pitching Notes

  • Strikeout totals = Kelly Barnhill – 112, Delanie Gourley – 107, Aleshia Ocasio – 85
    • They are looking to become the second trio in school history to all record 100+ strikeouts in a season.
    • UF achieved this feat last season when Lauren Haeger (214), Aleshia Ocasio (155) and Delanie Gourley (105) all reached the century mark.
    • Barnhill became the fifth Gator freshman in six years to record 100+ strikeouts last weekend at LSU.
  • Florida’s pitching trio has now combined to allow just 34 runs, while they have totaled 304 strikeouts. Both of those numbers lead the SEC.
  • Kelly Barnhill, who currently holds a miniscule 1.36 ERA, is challenging Stephanie Brombacher’s freshman record 1.40 ERA that she achieved in 2008.
  • Other freshman ranks that Barnhill is climbing into:
    • Wins – T-10th (12)
    • Strikeouts – 8th (112)

Hitting Notes

  • Hitting Streaks:
  • Kirsti Merritt was hit by a pitch in the third inning. She is now tied with Auburn’s Myesha Finney with an SEC Record 67 HBP’s.
  • Taylor Schwarz mashed her second home run of the season and first since Feb. 14 at USF.
  • Amanda Lorenz recorded her team-leading 10th double of the season during today’s game.
  • Lorenz, who’s currently hitting .406, is on pace to record the highest batting average for a freshman in school history. In addition, she could become the first rookie in program history to have an on-base percentage over .500.
    • Kelsey Stewart holds the batting title as she hit .378 during her freshman season in 2013.
  • Other freshman ranks that Lorenz is climbing into:
    • Doubles – T-7th (10)
    • Walks – T-10th (29)

Coaches’ Corner
Head Coach Tim Walton:
On today’s game…
“Obviously they’ve (Alabama) done a good job scouting us. (Alexis) Osorio did a really good job as she pitched very well today. I thought the difference was that we just found ways to get out of two-strike situations. In addition, Taylor Schwarz‘s at bat was kind of a game-changer. For her to just to tie it back up and take back the momentum after they had scored their two runs in the previous inning was huge. Overall, we’ve got a lot going on here this weekend and had a lot of great people back here to see us, including a lot of alumnae. Also, Denise (Lockwood) and Terri (Braswell) threw out the first pitch today, which was huge. It was a very momentous occasion that we were able to remember the lives of those two great people (Ian Lockwood, Heather Braswell).”
On the emotional importance of today…
“It is very important to pass along the memories of Heather (Braswell) and Ian (Lockwood) and just understand how much of a role our athletes play in other peoples’ lives. I think that’s the biggest thing you could see today. It’s funny, we’ve done a lot of things in regards to cancer research and awareness, between games like this, home run contests and celebrity games and alike. However, what we did today was more about bringing the awareness to it all. Our girls have been wearing the sunflowers for years just to show the spirit of not only Heather, but to celebrate the color and the symbol of pediatric cancer awareness. I think we should do this every year. “
Series History

  • The Gators have won five of the past seven meetings between the two schools, but Alabama holds the all-time series lead, 34-31, including a 15-11 mark in Gainesville, Fla.
  • Prior to last season’s three-game matchup in Tuscaloosa, UF and UA last met in the 2014 Women’s College World Series Championship Series when Florida swept Alabama to capture its first NCAA Championship.
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Andrew Spivey
Andrew always knew he wanted to be involved with sports in some capacity. He began by coaching high school football for six years before deciding to pursue a career in journalism. While coaching, he was a part of two state semifinal teams in the state of Alabama. Given his past coaching experience, he figured covering recruiting would be a perfect fit. He began his career as an intern for Rivals.com, covering University of Florida football recruiting. After interning with Rivals for six months, he joined the Gator Country family as a recruiting analyst. Andrew enjoys spending his free time on the golf course and watching his beloved Atlanta Braves. Follow him on Twitter at @AndrewSpiveyGC.