LEXINGTON, Ky. - Sophomore Kelly Barnhill propelled the third-ranked Florida softball team to its 25th shutout of the season in a 4-0 victory over No. 22 Kentucky at John Cropp Stadium Friday night.
Barnhill (17-0) struck out 15 Wildcats on just 97 pitches for her third 14-plus strikeout performance of the season. The 15 strikeouts was a season-high for Kentucky and Barnhill notched her ninth complete-game of the season, eighth shutout.
Junior Janell Wheaton came through with her second-straight multi-hit game and provided a pair of critical RBIs to put Florida (39-2, 14-1 SEC) ahead of the Wildcats (25-12, 5-8 SEC) early on in the contest.
Wheaton's first RBI came bottom of the initial frame of play with one out on the board. The San Dimas, Calif. native drilled a single to right field that scored sophomore Amanda Lorenz from third base, who reached safely in her 41st consecutive game.
In the third, Wheaton capitalized on the opportunity presented as she single through the right side of the Kentucky infield to score junior Nicole DeWitt. DeWitt started the inning after the pitch from Erin Rethlake hit her in the lower leg. It was DeWitt's fourth hit by pitch in two games.
The Gators separated themselves from the Wildcats in the top of the seventh inning when Florida took advantage of a pair of wild pitches from reliever Larissa Spellman and Rethlake who reentered with two outs in the inning.
Pinch runner Katie Chronister scored on Spellman's wild pitch to extend the lead to 3-0. Chronister pinch ran for Wheaton who drew a one out walk. After a Sophia Reynoso two-out walk Rethlake returned to the circle to throw the second wild pitch that allowed Ocasio to score from third for the final run.
Florida and Kentucky will square off tomorrow at 3 p.m. in the second game of the series at John Cropp Stadium.
Coaches Corner Overall thoughts on tonight's game... "I thought Kelly (Barnhill) did a great job tonight in the circle and Janell (Wheaton) had another good game. Overall, I think we did a good job of being patient and took advantage of what they were giving us." - Tim Walton
• With a full-count walk in the first inning, Amanda Lorenz extended her reached base safely streak to 41 games on the season. o The mark ties for Gator Kelsey Stewarts record of 41 games, which she accomplished during the 2014 season. o Lorenz also tied her career-high with three walks in the game. Last was against N.C. State (2016).
• The Gators stole three bases in the contest against the Wildcats. o Senior Justine McLean swiped her team-leading 14th base of the season. o Freshman Jacqui Switzer stole her 13th base of the season in the first inning, which ranks second on the team and Sophia Reynoso picked up her 12th. • Kayli Kvistad drew her 48th walk of the season, which ties the junior single-season record set by Francesca Enea in 2009. o Aja Paculba set the Florida single-season record in 2009 and Lauren Haeger tied it during the 2015 season.
• Janell Wheaton recorded her seventh multi-hit game of the season after going 2-for-3at the plate with two RBIs. • Kelly Barnhill recorded 15 strikeouts in tonight's game, which was one away from tying her season-high. It is the third SEC game this season where she has produced 14 or more strikeouts, which were all season-highs for the opposition. o Mar. 26, vs. Auburn (16) o Apr. 14 at Kentucky (15) o Apr. 10 vs. Georgia (14) • Tonight was the Gators 16th win over a Top 25 opponent and it's 10th shutout.