Gator Softball Recap: Florida and Barnhill Secure Two Wins to Open Judi Garman Classic

The Florida Gator softball team was handed its first loss of the 2019 regular season on Wednesday. It was senior starter Kelly Barnhill‘s (11-1) first loss of the season as well. She only lasted two innings against No. 2 UCLA on that occasion, but on Thursday she was given a quick opportunity to dust herself off.

That she did.

Barnhill and the Gators collected two one-run wins against New Mexico and No. 20 Oregon to open the Judi Garman Classic in California.

Florida opened the day by sending the Lobos home in walk-off style (1-0). In extra innings, junior outfielder Jade Caraway would drive home third baseman Hannah Sipos with an RBI double. In the latter game, Oregon forced the Gators to play in another tight contest.

Barnhill would follow up her earlier relief appearance with a brilliant start in the nightcap. She pitched seven innings of one-run ball. The Gators came from behind to beat the Ducks 2-1.

They’ll have arguably their toughest day of the season on Friday. Florida will open the day with a rematch with the Bruins at 2:15 p.m, eastern time. That’ll be followed by a night game against No. 5 Washington in Fullerton.

Lugo shines in trip back to California

It wasn’t just Barnhill that struggled against the Bruins on Wednesday. Freshman Danni Farley relieved the starter after her second inning but wasn’t able to limit the damage. She allowed a three-run homer in the fourth inning to Rachel Garcia that made the scoreline 7-0.

Gator coach Tim Walton would’ve wanted a deep start from his starter in Thursday’s opener. Sophomore Natalie Lugo delivered nothing less.

Back in her native state of California, she struck out 13 Lobos to equal her career high. Despite providing her team with a shutout and seven innings of four-hit ball, she was left without a win to cap her return home.

Instead, the win went to Barnhill who relieved her in the only inning of extras. The game was 0-0 until the eighth inning when Caraway knocked in her decisive hit. Florida’s bats were almost silenced by Lobos’ freshman starter Kennedy Ferguson (0-6). Ferguson allowed just five hits and walked one in her seven innings of work.

Regardless of who got the win in Thursday’s opener, take nothing away from Lugo’s performance. With her start, she’s now just pipped Barnhill (1.09) as the Gators’ ERA leader (0.77) early in the season.

Florida secures latter match despite only six hits

If not for Lugo, excellent defense and a timely Caraway, Florida could’ve been staring at their second straight defeat.

But against the Ducks, it was Barnhill that kept the game close in another tight affair.

The senior would take her rather quick shot at redemption and do well. Barnhill tossed a complete game to go along with nine strikeouts. She surrendered only three hits to a Ducks’ offense that came in averaging nearly 6.5 runs per game.

However, she would’ve been tagged with a loss had the Gators not produced their first and only bit of offense in the bottom half of the fifth.

Barnhill’s only blemish came in the top half of the inning. Then, she surrendered a solo home run to senior April Utecht that gave the Ducks a brief 1-0 lead.

In the bottom half the Gators would strike with two outs.

Caraway was able to reach second base via an error, and two batters later junior DP Kendyl Lindaman would single her home to tie the game. Then her replacement behind the plate, junior Jordan Roberts, would keep the inning going with a single of her own. Junior outfielder Jaimie Hoover made that three in a row to chase home sophomore pinch runner Haven Sampson.

What it means

Florida would never surrender their 2-1 lead to Oregon thanks to Barnhill’s dominance. Although, the Gators have now been held to just four runs in their last three games.

No. 2 UCLA and No. 20 Oregon started two of the toughest pitchers Florida has faced all season all season (Holly Azevedo and left hander Jordan Dail). Yet the Gators also couldn’t produce more than one run of offense against New Mexico’s starter Kennedy who’s still searching for her first collegiate win.

Two top five NCAA teams in UCLA and Washington could give he and his staff a more accurate gauge of where his team is at this point in the season.

About Edgar Chavero

Sports media and management student at the University of Florida. Content creator for ESPN 98.1 FM/ 850 AM WRUF.

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