For the first time ever, the Florida Gators went two-and-out in Women’s College World Series play on Saturday. The 2019 season came to an end in a 15-3 run-rule loss to the Alabama Crimson Tide in five innings.
A six-run first inning for the Tide set the tone of the game and sent senior Kelly Barnhill to the bench much sooner than expected.
From the first Alabama batter she faced, it became evident Barnhill did not have her best stuff. Tim Walton and the Gators rode her all season long, but at some point that strategy had to reach its breaking point.
KB Sides led off with a line drive double down the right field line, advanced to third on a wild pitch during the intentional walk of Baily Hemphill, and both runners came around when Kaylee Tow launched a belt-high 0-2 pitch over the right center field wall.
Barnhill issued two more free passes before Merris Schroder homered to left field and plated three more runs. Elizabeth Hightower came in and got the last out of the inning.
Despite a pair of walks in the second inning, Hightower came out unscathed. Unfortunately for Florida, that was the only inning Alabama did not add to its lead.
In the third, Hightower’s control got shaky. A wild pitch in the dirt slipped between the legs of Jordan Roberts, allowing the first base runner of the inning to advance to second. A base hit and another wild pitch later, and that same runner crossed the plate.
From there, Alabama continued to have good at-bats. Three more hits along with a poorly placed throw from Alex Voss from center field to third base that skipped off the foot of the runner made it a four-run inning.
With the Tide leading 10-0, the Gators found themselves in danger of being run-ruled and shut out in a devastating loss.
At the plate, Florida just couldn’t find any rhythm. It found ways to get runners on every inning, but poor pitch selection and overall bad approaches made it hard to bring them around.
After Alabama scored one more for good measure in the fourth, Florida managed to get its two quickest outs of the game. In a classy move, Walton brought Barnhill back in to throw one last strike to end her career. She came on the field to a standing ovation and left to the same.
It may have worked out better to let her get one last out as Katie Chronister entered the game and gave up the third three-run homer of the night, this time to Hemphill.
This Florida team did not play its best softball of the season in Oklahoma City, but if the final inning of the game showed anything, it was the heart the players have for the game.
A large part of the crowd stood as Amanda Lorenz stepped to the plate in what would ultimately be her final appearance as a Gator. She got ahead 3-0 before battling in a full count and lining it straight at Alabama’s center fielder.
With tears in her eyes, she told her teammates in the dugout to go cheer for Kendyl Lindaman rather than consoling her. Just seconds later, Lindaman sent a solo shot into the right field bleachers to avoid the shutout.
Hannah Adams drew a walk and Sophia Reynoso knocked one out to left field. It was just her second of the season.
Roberts then took it the other way for a double over the head of the right fielder.
It was all too little, too late, still down 12 runs. But the Gators fought until the very end and sent the seniors off with a few positives to take from a tough ending.