Florida pitcher Kelly Barnhill allowed three hits in four innings to lead the No. 1 Gators to an 8-0 victory over No. 9 Texas A&M Thursday afternoon in the opener of the Women’s College World Series at Oklahoma City.
The game was called after 4-1/2 innings due to run rule. Barnhill raised her record to 25-3. Florida hurler Delanie Gourley pitched a shutout inning in the top of the fifth, allowing one hit.
The Aggies will play in an elimination game at 11 a.m. Saturday against the loser of this afternoon’s LSU/UCLA game.
Former Aledo Ladycats’ two-time all-state third baseman Riley Sartain, who yesterday was named to the National Fastpitch Coaches Association All-American team, was at her usual starting position at third base.
The sophomore, hitting sixth in the batting order and leading the Aggies in batting average, on-base percentage and runs batted in, came to the plate just twice in the contest.
She grounded out to the pitcher on a 2-2 count to lead off the top of the second inning, and in the fourth frame Sartain almost legged out an infield single but was thrown out on a ground ball hit to the shortstop. She also threw out a runner at first base for an assist in her only attempt.
“Barnhill is one of the best pitchers we have faced this year,” Sartain said. “She is (2017 USA Collegiate Softball) Player of the Year for a reason. She is good. She can throw an effective rise ball at your knees, waist or hands, so we knew we had to get on top of the ball. When we did, we never seemed to find the holes.
“But there is no panic with our team. We lost our first game last week (in Game 1 of the Super Regional against Tennessee) and were able to come back and take the next two. All of our focus now is on Saturdays game.”
Sartain said she went to the Women’s College World Series to watch A&M in 2008. She said it was “an honor” to play at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium and in the most important softball tournament in the country.
“My Dad (Chris) took me the last time A&M played here,” Sartain said. “But since I played so much summer ball that was the only time I ever got to come here and watch. I tried to soak everything in, and our coach (Jo Evans) told us regardless of the outcome to soak this moment in.
“You never know if you will ever get this chance again, so I was definitely soaking it in at media day (Wednesday), when we were practicing and when we walked on the field today. I was trying to make some memories.”
Florida, the designated “home” team, scored in all four innings, taking a 2-0 lead after the first inning adding a pair of runs in the second, another in the third and three in the fourth on a three-run home run by Aleshia Ocasio.
All Women’s College World Series games will be broadcast live on either ESPN or ESPN 2.