The Florida softball team felt good playing in front of the home crowd for the first time this season, and it didn’t take long to show it.
The No. 2-ranked Gators made quick work of North Florida thanks to a no-hitter by Kelly Barnhill and a six-run fourth inning that helped secure a 9-0 win Wednesday night at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium.
“I thought, obviously, Kelly Barnhill had a really good home opener for us. I thought our lineup, even though we didn’t score too many runs in the first couple innings, that we had good at-bats,” UF coach Tim Walton said. “I was really pleased with the way we came out and played, and I’m thankful for the fans that came out and watched us tonight here in our home-opener.”
Coming off wins over then-No. 18 Michigan and host USF in the Wilson-DeMarini Tournament in Tampa over the weekend, the Gators (6-0) picked up right where they had left off.
Barnhill, a junior right-hander, came out firing on all cylinders from the get-go, needing just five pitches to retire the Ospreys in the top of the first. Midway through the third, she had seven strikeouts, and showed no signs of letting up.
Barnhill’s shot at a perfect game was only spoiled with one out in the top of the fifth inning, when she hit UNF pinch hitter Rindy Bryant with a pitch.Barnhill (2-0) finished the day striking out 12 of 16 Ospreys batters she faced on just 55 pitches.
“I just was going out there and trying not to think. I was really in my head this past weekend with my pitching, and I just went to the bullpen these last two days and really focused on my rise ball,” Barnhill said. “I think it really showed today.”
Meanwhile, the Gators continued their recent trend of finding base early, even with the bats slow to get moving, as senior Janell Wheaton hit an RBI single to center to score Kayli Kvistad for the game’s opening run. The Gators wouldn’t add to the lead until the third inning, when junior Amanda Lorenz scored on an error by Ospreys (2-4) first baseman Navia Penrod.
While Barnhill continued to retire batter after batter, Florida’s hitting found its groove in the fourth inning on an RBI double by Lorenz that brought home Jaimie Hoover. The very next batter, senior Nicole DeWitt, drove home Lorenz to push the lead to 4-0 with a lone out, and Florida was simply getting started in what would end up being the decisive sequence. By the end of the fourth, the Gators held a 9-0 lead, thanks in part to a two-run double by Ocasio that put the run rule into effect.
“We’re six games into the season already, and I think it’s been somebody new every time stepping up and getting a nice hit,” Walton said. “I think that’s a nice treat, such a luxury as a coach to have players one through nine be able to hit.”
The Gators will be back in action in Gainesville in a week to face Oakland University. However, Florida will first head to Lafayette, Louisiana for a three-game weekend series with the No. 16-ranked Ragin’ Cajuns.
“They’re always a top program,” Walton said of Louisiana-Lafayette. “If they’re not in the top-20, they’re certainly a top-10 type of team every year.”