Special report on the Florida Gators softball team:
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – The No. 1 Florida softball team defeated Winthrop, 7-0 on Wednesday night at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium. Freshman Kelly Barnhill threw a two-hit shutout with three walks and a school-record high tying 18 strikeouts to run her record to 9-0 on the season.
Three players had multiple hits for the Gators (27-1), who bounced back after losing their first game of the season on Monday night.
Barnhill’s 18 strikeouts tied a UF single-game record that she and junior Delanie Gourley set a few weeks ago against Florida A&M.
On Sunday, March 6, that duo combined for 18 strikeouts against the Rattlers in the second game of Florida’s doubleheader. Gourley recorded a career-high 13 strikeouts in 5.1 innings pitched, and Barnhill dealt five strikeouts to the only five FAMU hitters she faced.
The rookie tried to mirror that performance tonight over seven innings, as Florida’s first-year pitcher fanned two batters in the fourth and struck out the side in five of the other six innings.
Barnhill now holds the Florida individual-game record for strikeouts. That mark was previously held by her teammate, Aleshia Ocasio, and former Gator Renise Landry, who each had 17 in a game.
Offensively, Florida scored its runs in bunches as the Gators recorded two in the first, two in the fourth and three in the sixth.
In the first inning, UF scored a pair of runs on four hits, including RBI singles by Amanda Lorenz and Kayli Kvistad.
UF recorded its runs in the fourth on a Kelsey Stewart double and a Winthrop miscue. The two-bagger scored Justine McLean, who led off the inning with a single. Stewart crossed home plate on an error by the Eagles second baseman.
Nicole DeWitt notched a two-run double in the fifth and Aubree Munro singled her in which turned out to be the final run of the contest.
News & Notes
Florida is now tied with its 2008, 2011 and 2014 teams for the second-best start in school history with a 27-1 record. UF its 2015 season 28-0.
UF has now outscored its opponents this season, 196-26.
In 2015, UF had a plus-185 run differential (216-31) through 28 games.
In 2014, UF had a plus-169 run differential (209-40) through 28 games.
Florida’s 26 runs allowed through 28 games is tied for the second fewest in school history through this point in any season.
UF’s 2009 squad allowed 21 tallies through 28 contests and Florida’s last two NCAA Championship teams had allowed 40 (2014) and 31 (2015) runs, respectively.
The Gators have made just 11 errors this season and currently sport one of the best fielding percentages (.984) and earned run averages in the nation (0.89). For comparison, Florida had committed 19 errors in its first 28 contests and had a fielding percentage of .973. UF went on to record its best fielding percentage (.981) and commit just 33 errors, which were both school records
Florida’s senior class is now 200-29, which currently ranks ninth among four-year class records in program history.
Sitting eighth on this list UF’s 2008 graduating class that went 204-75 throughout its four seasons.
Taylore Fuller, Kirsti Merritt, Aubree Munro, Taylor Schwarz and Kelsey Stewart are trying to catch UF’s 2011 class which boasted a 238-33 mark during their four years.
Tim Walton is now just 21 wins away from his 600th win at Florida.
Walton earned his 700th career win on March 12 at Auburn.
Wednesday’s game was broadcast on SEC Network+. Florida posted a 15-2 record overall and a 12-0 mark at home last season when appearing on SEC Network+, which debuted a season ago. UF is 5-0 in such games this season.
Kayli Kvistad – eight games (career long)
Justine McLean – seven games (career long)
Amanda Lorenz – three games
Nicole DeWitt – three games
Kayli Kvistad is hitting .583 (14 for 24) over her last 10 games with three home runs, two doubles, 16 RBI and seven runs scored.
UF did not allow a stolen base on Saturday, remaining the only team in the SEC who has yet to allow more than one stolen base in 2016.
UF hitters have struck out 67 times on the year; each of the Gators’ three pitchers has 68+ strikeouts
(Delanie Gourley – 87, Kelly Barnhill – 90, Aleshia Ocasio – 68).
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.
Gourley (9-0), Ocasio (9-1) and Barnhill (9-0) are also trying to become the third trio in three years and third school history to all recorded at least 10 wins.
Barnhill’s 18 strikeouts tied a record that she and junior Delanie Gourley set a few weeks ago against Florida A&M.
On Sunday, March 6, that duo combined for 18 strikeouts against the Rattlers in the second game of Florida’s doubleheader. Gourley recorded a career-high 13 strikeouts in 5.1 innings pitched, and Barnhill dealt five strikeouts to the only five Rattlers she faced.
Barnhill now holds the Florida individual-game record for strikeouts. That mark was previously held by her teammate, Aleshia Ocasio, and former Gator, Renise Landry, who each had 17 in a game.
Ocasio recorded her memorable performance in the 2015 NCAA Regional against Florida A&M, while Landry’s came against Samford (eight innings) on Feb. 20, 2000.
The freshman’s performance marked the second time a Gator pitcher recorded 15+ strikeouts in a regulation game since Jenny Gladding had 15 against Nebraska on Feb. 21, 2004.
Head Coach Tim Walton:
“On Kelly Barnhill…
“I thought she (Kelly Barnhill) did a great job of elevating her rise ball when she needed to, and even threw her low rise. She was also throwing a bit of a harder rise, which is something she’s been working on to make hitters think it’s going to be a strike. It’s a real power pitch she’s throwing. The good thing about her, if Kelly gets ahead in the count, it really makes it tough on you because she throws so hard at so many different speeds.”
On Kelly improving from her last start against Auburn…
“You look at what she (Barnhill) was able to do against Auburn’s good hitting team, and they touched her up for a couple home runs. I think mainly when a team has good hitters, if she throws the ball in the zone, like she did, then they’ll hit it hard. To me, the most important part of her pitching is her understanding of the zone. She has to be able to throw the ball to her locations and be able to live on the edge of the plate.”
On the game overall and looking ahead…
“This one was tough today. I don’t think we were really close to being at our best today, mentally or physically, as we were coming off a tough, draining series at Auburn and an off day yesterday. I thought we swung the bat pretty well, but I thought overall we were a little lethargic. We weren’t as upbeat as I feel like we can be as a team. I think this was an important game to come back after that tough loss on Monday night.”
Freshman Pitcher Kelly Barnhill:
On her performance tonight…
“It feels great. I could give you every cliché in the book, but it just feels really amazing to be able to get those strikeouts and have Aubree’s support from behind the plate. Especially with Coach [Jennifer] Rocha helping call my pitches, she’s the brains behind everything.”
Wednesday marked just the second meeting in the two schools’ history.
Winthrop made a trip to Gainesville in 2004 when the Gators defeated the Eagles, 7-1.
Florida will open a three-game series against No. 16 Tennessee on Friday 7 p.m. ET. The game will be broadcast on ESPU and the WatchESPN app. In addition, the game can be heard on Florida Sports Talk (WGGG-AM & WMOP-AM/FM. Live stats links for the contest can be found on the Gators’ schedule page.