Special report on the Florida Gators softball team:
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – The No. 1-ranked University of Florida softball team shut out No. 8 Tennessee for the first time in Knoxville since 2012 with a 5-0 victory at Sherri Parker Lee Stadium. A stadium record crowd of 2,218 attended the series-opening win.
Reigning SEC Pitcher of the Week, Kelly Barnhill (21-0) was electric in the circle once again for the Gators (45-3, 19-2 SEC) and was backed up offensively by SEC Player of the Week Kayli Kvistad, who crushed a pair of solo home runs to bookend the teams scoring.
It all started in the first inning when Florida scored first for the 40th time this season. With two outs, Kvistad sent a 2-1 pitch from Tennessee (41-7, 13-5 SEC) starter Matty Moss (21-2) over the right field fence to put the Gators ahead 1-0.
That run alone would have been enough for Barnhill in the circle as she went on to record her 11th complete-game shutout of the season.
The sophomore right-handed pitcher moved quickly through the Volunteer lineup until she relinquished her first hit in the bottom of the fourth to Brooke Vines. Tennessee did put a pair of runners on base in the inning but Barnhill quickly dispatched the threat when she recorded her seventh strikeout.
More run support came for the Gators in the fifth inning.
The stage was set for sophomore Amanda Lorenz to bust the game open when freshman Jaimie Hoover reached via hit by pitch and eventually moved into scoring position by Sophia Reynoso’s eighth SAC bunt of the year.
The most crucial at-bat of the inning came from senior Justine McLean. With one out, McLean battled through a 12-pitch at-bat to draw her 14th walk of the year. Lorenz then ripped a ground ball down the right field line just inside the first base bag for her second triple of the year to score both Hoover and McLean.
The Gators brought the scoring in the inning to a close when Kvistad crushed her second home run of the game on an opposite field shot over the right center field wall.
Vines picked up the only other hit of the night for the Volunteers in the sixth inning.
Game two is set for tomorrow at 2 p.m. and can be viewed live on the SEC Network + via WatchESPN.com or the WatchESPN app.
Coaches Corner – Tim Walton
On the offense continuously finding ways to produce…
“Just trying to find a way to score runs early in the game for Kelly, to give her a little bit of a cushion and try to change the way people attack her in the other dugout. I think it was a nice start today with Kayli hitting that ball in the first and just being able to turn the lineup over was big. I really thought the at-bat of the day though was Justine McLean’s long foul ball out with a walk. To me that was the game changing at-bat. The nine-hole batter reaching by walk but fighting and fighting through the entire at-bat was huge.”
On Kelly Barnhill’s 50.1 scoreless inning streak…
“It’s an incredible feat. We’ve obviously made some great plays behind her defensively but give her a lot of the credit. I think she has done a really good job of being able to just really command her pitches and locate her pitches so much better during here in her sophomore year. She’s pitching with confidence and also aggressively.
· Sophia Reynoso recorded her eighth SAC bunt of the season in the fifth when she moved Jaimie Hoover into scoring position on 0-1 count.
· Kayli Kvistad tallied a pair of solo home runs in tonight’s contest to bring her season total to seven. She also extended her hitting streak to six games.
o It’s the first multi-home run game of the season for Kvistad and first for the program since Lorenz hit two against North Florida (4/5) earlier this season.
o Also, the 11th time this season the Gators have produced a multi-home run game.
· The Gators improved their record to 21-2 and produced the team’s 15th shutout of the season over a Top 25 opponent.
o It was Barnhill’s 11th complete-game shutout of the season.
· Barnhill eclipsed her previous scoreless inning streak record during tonight’s game. She extended her current streak to 50.1 innings, which surpassed her previous career-best of 45.2 innings.
· Barnhill produced her 12th outing of 10-plus strikeouts in a game.
o The 12 strikeouts were a season-high for the Vols, which makes it the fifth SEC opponent and sixth time she has dealt a season-high in strikeouts to SEC opposition.
· Florida shut out Tennessee for the first time in Knoxville since the series finale March 9, 2012.
o The team also improved its all-time record to 48-25 and 26-12 since 2006 when Walton took over the program