Florida’s Barnhill dominates UK softball in weekend series


The Kentucky Wildcats softball team stands during the National Anthem prior to the game against the Florida Gators at John Cropp Stadium on Friday, April 14, 2017 in Lexington, KY. Photo by Addison Coffey | Staff.

Chase Campbell

In the weekend series that began Friday, No. 21 UK softball took on the No. 3 Florida Gators in a defense-focused SEC matchup. The Gators took the series 2-1, beating the Cats Friday and Sunday.

On Friday, the Gators showed their strength as the leaders of the dominant SEC and the No. 3 team in the nation as they downed the Cats 4-0, led by pitcher Kelly Barnhill, who notched 15 strikeouts in the game. Florida defeated the Cats with apparent ease, and it seemed like the Gators would continue to dominate UK for the rest of the series.

However, this was not the case, as the Cats came back Saturday in front of a season-record crowd to beat the Gators 5-1. Shortstop Katie Reed was excellent at the plate, scoring two runs and also collecting two RBI in the game.

This was the first time that Florida had lost by that many runs since a game against Alabama over two years ago. Florida senior Delanie Gourlie pitched that game, and while she came into the game boasting a 0.77 ERA, she was no Barnhill, as the Cats clicked offensively and put up run after run.

“People don’t expect anyone to steal games from them,” said pitcher Erin Rethlake. “Honestly, it’s more exciting to see everything come together.”

Sunday saw the return of Barnhill at the mound for the Gators, and the undefeated sophomore pitcher picked up right where she left off, netting 15 more strikeouts in the 2-0 no-hitter, the second of her career, only one walk away from a perfect game.

“[Barnhill] is good. She’s very good. She kind of fooled us today, so now we know where to go futuristically,” said Rethlake. “She’s the best pitcher in the country for a reason.”

UK head coach Rachel Lawson, however, didn’t see it as a complete failure in the face of the excellent pitching.

“You’re talking one of the best offenses in the country, so for us to be able to keep them to only five hits and two runs, I thought that they did a good job” said Lawson.

The Cats are in the middle of a gauntlet that is conference play, but they’ll get a bit of a break when they head to Rethlake’s home state of Indiana on Wednesday to take on the Hoosiers, who are 10th in the Big Ten and 2-8 in their last 10 games.

Lawson emphasized that the biggest thing her team is taking to Bloomington is a strong offense.

“We have to have a good offensive approach,” Lawson said. “You have to change your offensive approach depending on the pitcher and I think our team is slowly starting to figure that out.”

After they take on the Hoosiers, the Cats will return to SEC play by going to Missouri to take on the Tigers for another weekend series, starting Friday.