Sunday, May 28, 2017

UF Softball: No. 1 Florida Advances to 8th WCWS!!!

The No. 1 seeded Florida Gators (55-8) are going back to Oklahoma City after defeating the No. 16 seeded Alabama Crimson Tide (46-17) in the Gainesville Super Regional! After going down 1-0 in the series, the Gators used great pitching and timely hitting to become just the 18th team to ever reach the WCWS after trailing a game in super regional play. Here now is a recap of all three games!

Game 1 (May 25th)
In the super regional opener, the Florida Gators (53-8) fell to the Alabama Crimson Tide (46-15) by a score of 3-0.

Taking the mound for her first ever start in a super regional, sophomore right-hander Kelly Barnhill (24-3, 0.36 ERA) got the nod in the opener. In five innings, she allowed three runs on three hits while striking out 11 Tide batters and walking three. Here is how 'Bama scored against Kelly.

Barnhill had retired 12 straight batters heading into the fifth inning. Against cleanup hitter Bailey Hemphill, she issued her first walk of the evening. With the game still scoreless, the Tide put down a total of four sacrifice bunts. Of those four, Kelly threw two of them away. The result was three runs for the Tide, ruining what had been a great outing for Barnhill.

In the sixth inning with runners on first and second and no outs, Barnhill would get pulled for junior right-hander Aleshia Ocasio. It was the first time this year that Barnhill had not gone the distance in a start. Ocasio used a double play and a ground out to end the threat.

She would work past a pair of singles in the seventh to keep Florida in it, but the Gators would have no offensive response. Ultimately, it would be just Barnhill's third loss of the season and second in postseason play.

The Gators had just three hits and only one legitimate offensive threat as they loaded the bases with two outs in the fifth inning. Of course, this would be to no avail.

Sophomore left fielder Amanda Lorenz led all Florida hitters as she went 2-2 with two walks. Aleshia Ocasio notched Florida's only other base knock as she went 1-2 with a hit-by-pitch.

Final Takeaway
Dropping the super regional opener for the second consecutive year, the Florida Gators needed to wake up their offense with elimination just one game away. Before recapping Game 2, here are my final tidbits on the opener:

  • This is the fourth time all year that the Gators have been shut out.
  • This is Amanda Lorenz's 22nd multi-hit game of the year.
  • Florida has now lost two straight games to SEC opponents.
  • Three Gators were hit by a pitch. They were: Kayli Kvistad, Aleshia Ocasio, and Sophia Reynoso twice. 
  • Aleshia Ocasio was picked off at second base to end the bottom of the second inning.
  • Junior catcher Janell Wheaton threw out her 14th base runner of the year in the top of the first inning.
  • Tide pitcher Alexis Osorio (23-8, 1.21 ERA) shut the Gators down. The junior struck out eight, walked three, and allowed three hits in a complete game shutout. 
  • 1,800 fans packed Katie Seashole Pressly for the game.

*All stats accredited to

Game 2 (May 26th)
With their season on the line, the Florida Gators (54-8) staved off elimination as they defeated the Alabama Crimson Tide (46-17) by a score of 2-0 in the Game 2.

Taking the mound for what could have been the final time, senior left-hander Delanie Gourley (21-4, 0.67 ERA) was dealing. Going the distance, Gourley allowed no runs on four hits while striking out eight and walking two. Not a single Tide batter reached third base against Delanie in this game. When it was all said and done, her efforts would earn her win No. 21 on the season.

Florida had five hits in this game and they were able to crack the scoreboard in the top of the third inning. With a runner on first base and two outs, Amanda Lorenz strode to the batter's box.

Down in the count 1-2 and having just fouled a ball off her foot, Lorenz muscled up and smacked a home run to right center field. It would give Florida a 2-0 lead and they would never look back.

Lorenz was one of four Gators with a base knock as she again went 2-4 on the night. Two spots down, junior first baseman Kayli Kvistad went 1-2 with a walk. In the six-hole, Janell Wheaton went 1-3 and in the nine-hole Justine McLean went 1-2 with a walk and a run scored on the homer.

Final Takeaway
With this victory, Florida would be playing in just their third ever Game 3 of a super regional. Before recapping the excitement of the finale, here are my final tidbits on the Game 2 win:

  • This is Florida's 37th shutout victory of the season!
  • This is Amanda Lorenz's 23rd multi-hit game of the year. Her homer was her 11th of the season and leads the team.
  • Shortstop Sophia Reynoso made the lone error of the game as her throw pulled Kayli Kvistad off the bag with two outs. This would not come back to haunt the Gators, however, as the next Tide batter would ground out to end the game.
  • 2,283 fans were at Katie Seashole Pressly for Game 2. It was the most attended game of the series.

Game 3 (May 27th)
With a trip to Oklahoma City on the line, the Florida Gators (55-8) arose to the occasion. Behind brilliant pitching from Kelly Barnhill and a first inning rally, the Gators defeated the Alabama Crimson Tide (46-18) by a score of 2-1 to advance to the eighth Women's College World Series in school history.

It was absolute redemption for Kelly Barnhill as she toed the rubber in this do-or-die contest. Going the distance, Barnhill dominated the whole game as she struck out 12 Tide batters. She allowed just two hits and one earned run while walking two and hitting a batter.

'Bama's lone run came in the second inning and cut the lead to 2-1. From that point on though they would not get a runner past first base as Barnhill retired 12 consecutive batters until the start of the seventh.

Alabama would put a runner on first with no outs in the seventh after a dropped third strike, but Kelly kept her poise. She recorded a strikeout, induced a ground out, and then registered one final strikeout to clinch her first ever trip to Oklahoma City. The demons of 2016 had been finally exorcised and it would be Kelly's 24th victory of the season.

The Gators had just three hits but were able to score early with a rally in the first inning. With one out and runners on first and second, Aleshia Ocasio came through with an RBI single to make it 1-0 Florida.

A walk would load the bases, giving Florida a real chance to bust this game open with freshman Jordan Roberts up to bat. Quickly falling behind 0-2 in the count, Roberts was hit by a pitch on her elbow to score the second run of the inning! This strike of fortune for the Gators would prove to be the difference in the game. 

Shortly after getting hit, Roberts would be pulled from the game for a pinch runner. She would be credited with no official at-bat, but was responsible for one of the biggest RBI's of Florida's postseason.

For those who had official at-bats, just three Gators had hits. Two of them came from Amanda Lorenz and Aleshia Ocasio in the first inning. Lorenz finished the day 1-2 with a run scored and a walk while Ocasio ended up 1-3 with the only RBI base knock for Florida.

The last Gator to obtain a hit was Kayli Kvistad, who led off the fifth inning with a double. She would conclude the game 1-2 with a walk and a run scored on the Roberts' hit by pitch.

As an offensive unit, the Gators did a good job getting to Alabama starter Alexis Osorio. They worked five walks off of her and Sophia Reynoso joined Jordan Roberts as the only two Gators to get plunked in the ball game. Osorio still struck out eight Gators, but at least Florida was able to score off of her this time around.

Final Takeaway
For the second straight round, the Florida Gators showed resiliency as they came all the way back to upend Alabama. The journey to their eighth Women's College World Series was a tad more difficult than usual, but only makes it more rewarding.

Before previewing the next step in Florida's hunt for a third national championship in four years, here are my final tidbits on the series finale and the super regional as a whole:

  • Florida is now 17-5 all-time in super regional play.
  • Florida is now 7-1 in postseason meetings against Alabama.
  • This is the third straight season that Florida has battled an SEC foe for a trip to the WCWS (Kentucky in 2015 and Georgia in 2016).
  • Both Florida and Alabama had an error in this game. For the Gators, shortstop Sophia Reynoso threw a ball away to first as 'Bama scored to make it 2-1. For the Crimson Tide, sophomore catcher Regan Dykes nailed Nicole DeWitt in the head as he threw the ball back to Osorio. Kayli Kvistad would advance to second but not score.
  • Florida had four total errors in the series while Alabama had one.
  • 2,216 fans were in attendance to see the Gators clinch another trip to Oklahoma City.

Looking Ahead
Back in Oklahoma City for the fourth time in five years, the No. 1 seeded Florida Gators (55-8) will await the winner of No. 8 Tennessee (48-11) and No. 9 Texas A&M (46-11) in the Knoxville Super Regional. Regardless of who wins, either matchup favors Florida.

The Gators went 2-1 against the then No. 8 ranked Lady Vols in Knoxville while not facing Texas A&M at all this season. Regardless, Florida will again open up against an SEC opponent in Oklahoma City as they faced off against Tennessee in 2015.

I am not sure when, but the Gators will be back on the field on either this upcoming Thursday or Friday. I do not know the game times either, but I can say with confidence that all of the WCWS games will be broadcasted on the ESPN family of networks.

As for No. 16 seeded Alabama (46-17), they conclude the year with over 40 wins for the 17th consecutive season. This is the first time since 2013 that they have failed to make the Women's College World Series. It is also the fifth straight year that an SEC team has eliminated them from the postseason.



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