The Florida Gators softball team dominated in its 2017-2018 season home opener against the University of North Florida Ospreys. Nine runs, nine hits, and outstanding pitching is all it took No. 2 Florida to stay undefeated at 6-0 to start the season. The Gators relied on sublime pitching by junior pitcher Kelly Barnhill and subpar play by the Ospreys before going on a hitting run in the bottom of the fourth inning. Barnhill finished with 12 strikeouts in 55 pitches in her no-hitter to improve to 2-0.
She last threw one against Kentucky in a 2-0 win April 16.
— Gators Softball (@GatorsSB) February 15, 2018
Slow Start, Amazing Finish
Back-to-back walks by Ospreys pitcher Morgan Blourne set up the Gators to take an early lead. Janell Wheaton singled to center field to allow Kayli Kvistad to score in the bottom of the 1st inning. Gators pitcher Kelly Barnhill dominated early with four strikeouts in two innings. Although the Gators struggled to hit, Barnhill struck out the side in the top of the third. The junior had seven strikeouts for the game in only 28 pitches.
The Ospreys defense cost them in the bottom of the third inning. An error and poor fielding led to two hits and an unearned run to extend the Gators lead. Bourne would be replaced by right-hander Amanda Blanchard after walking her fourth batter in three innings. Runners who scored for Florida all ended up on base through walks. However, the Gators hitting woes continued since Blanchard saved North Florida with a strikeout to end the inning.
The strikeouts kept coming in with Barnhill adding another two in the top of the fourth. The exclamation point in the game is when the Gators made it rain in the fourth inning. Lorenz doubled to left field in the bottom of the fourth to give the Gators a three-run lead. Immediately, Hoover scored after another walk by North Florida. The Ospreys just couldn’t get off the field. DeWitt advanced to second off a fielders choice with an RBI single to bring Lorenz right back home. Kvistad reached based again on a single before a double steal. Kvistad stole second; DeWitt stole home. Six runs and five hits in the fourth inning left Barnhill on the mound to clinch a mercy rule win. Although pinch hitter Rindy Bryant was hit by a pitch with one out in the top of the fifth, Barnhill struck out all three outs to end the game.
Home Opener History and What’s Ahead
Florida is undefeated in its first home game every season this century, according to schedule data going back to the year 2000. Florida Head Coach Tim Walton was proud of the fans who came out today and how his team played. Although it is the beginning of the season, he knows the season is long and that he needs to rest players when possible.
Freshman Jordan Matthews played the cleanup position today for the Gators. She was walked three times, but Walton acknowledges her talent and what she means to this team.
Florida take on Louisiana on the road this weekend in a three-game series.