The Official Website of the Southeastern Conference
The Official Website of the Southeastern Conference

Florida advances to semifinals with win over LSU

2067 days ago
Florida Athletics

OKLAHOMA CITY -- It's hard to fathom, but Florida's bats have reduced Kelly Barnhill to a supporting-cast role at the Women's College World Series.

Oh, and Barnhill's ERA here is 0.00.

More on her later.

Meanwhile, chew on these digits: two games, 17 hits, 15 runs.

Those are the aggregate offensive tallies for top-seeded UF after Friday night's 7-0 mashing of LSU, the second Southeastern Conference opponent to be dismantled by Florida in as many days at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium. The Gators, who came to OKC hitting .229 in NCAA Tournament play after scoring four runs and batting .167 in their three Super Regional games last week, pounded a trio of Tigers pitchers for nine hits, including homers from junior catcher Janell Wheaton and junior first baseman Kayli Kvistad. This on the heels of Thursday's eight-hit, 8-0 demolition job of Texas A&M.

"I can't say enough about the lineup, just really finally hitting a stride," UF coach Tim Walton said. "I think more than anything, [we've] just gained a little bit of confidence in going up there and actually looking like we're trying to get some hits."

With the win, the program's 12th in its last 13 WCWS games dating to its back-to-back NCAA titles of 2014 and '15, the Gators (57-8) advanced to Sunday's semifinals to face one of the survivors from Saturday's four-game elimination round. One UF win there and it's back to championship series.

Walton called a Saturday day off at the WCWS the "greatest position to be in." And it is. That means some team (maybe Washington, maybe UCLA, maybe A&M again) will have to beat Florida twice on Sunday, which means having to beat Barnhill.

Again, more on her later.

For the Gators, the story of the last two days have been the sudden jolt of offensive production.

After the rout of A&M, UF's coach and players talked about hitting being contagious. Against the Aggies, at least seven different Gators got hits. Against the Tigers (48-21) that number again was seven, including senior right fielder Chelsea Herndon. The game was scoreless when Herndon stepped into the box with runners on first and second with one out in the fourth inning.

At that point, she was 0-for-12 for the NCAA Tournament.

"You just have to stay calm," Herndon said, adding she didn't allow any thoughts of recent at-bats clutter her mind. "When I saw a good pitch, I took a hack at it."

The ball roped down the right field line, stayed fair and cleared the bases for a 2-0 lead.

"We just needed that one hit to get us going, and Chelsea is the one that got it done for us," Wheaton said. "She's the one that started the rally and, like you said, hitting is contagious, so Chelsea is the one that got it done for us today."

I didn't say it, I just repeated what was said Thursday.

And the Gators, in turn, repeated those red-hot ways.

"I talked to our team about it being a simple game, and I think at the end of the day, it is," Walton said. "You've got to catch the ball, you've got to throw the ball, you've got to hit the ball, but execution is the key, and I thought we executed really, really well tonight. We did a lot of nice things [and] some go noticed, some go unnoticed."

The noticed? How 'bout when third baseman Aleshia Ocasio took a nose dive into the photographers' well to snare a foul ball and secure a second out in the third inning with a runner on third. It was ESPN Top 10 stuff. Ocasio also gloved a couple sharply hit balls with runners on base in the sixth and turned them into frighteningly routine-looking fielder's choice plays.