Dan Fleser: Florida’s Kelly Barnhill Uses 383 Pitches To Oust Lady Vols From NCAA Softball Tournament

Sunday, May 26, 2019 - by Dan Fleser

KNOXVILLE – The pitching math added up in Tennessee’s favor during the Regional round of the NCAA softball tournament last weekend. The Lady Vols outnumbered an opponent’s star pitcher and advanced to a Super Regional showdown at Florida.

The same formula almost worked again for UT. Almost.

Florida’s Kelly Barnhill isn’t just another star pitcher, however. The senior right-hander, a two-time All-American and national player of the year in 2017, threw all three games for the Gators – 383 pitches total. The last 103 were dispatched in 98-degree heat on a cloudless Sunday afternoon at Pressly Stadium in Gainesville, Fla.

Like Saturday night, Barnhill worked overtime, going eight innings. Unlike Saturday night, the Lady Vols couldn’t chase her and get into the Gators’ bullpen. She lasted until Jaimie Hoover’s two-out single drove in All-American Amanda Lorenz with the decisive run of Florida’s 2-1 victory.

The victory sent Florida (49-16) to the Women’s College World Series in Oklahoma City for the third consecutive year and the 10th time overall. Tennessee, meanwhile, fell in the super regional round for the third consecutive year. All three times, the Lady Vols have been eliminated by an SEC opponent. 

The compliment UT co-head coach Karen Weekly paid Barnhill the night before, after Tennessee outlasted her for a 3-2 victory in nine innings, echoed after Sunday’s effort.

“She’s a heckuva pitcher; she’s a fighter,” Weekly said. “She’s one of the best pitchers in the country right now, if not the best.”

After losing 3-0 to Barnhill in Friday’s series opener, Tennessee (43-17) summoned a determined response in the final two games.

Senior Haley Bearden was responsible for two of the most dramatic moments. With UT the home team, she drew a bases-loaded walk from reliever Natalie Lugo in the bottom of the ninth to win Saturday’s game. On Sunday, she erased UT’s one-run deficit with one swing, hitting Barnhill’s first pitch of the seventh over the right-field wall for a home run.

Junior Caylan Arnold, who outdueled North Carolina ace Brittany Pickett in the decisive game of last week’s regional at Lee Stadium, was brilliant Saturday night, throwing 177 pitches and finishing a marathon that last nearly four hours.

“I felt like in the past when we’ve been in a super regional, my adrenaline has kind of taken over and I didn’t feel that this game,” Arnold said. “I just felt very calm and collected, which I think is what made the difference.”

Under the circumstances, Weekly felt confident in going with Arnold, who’s from nearby Maryville.

“When I handed her the ball (Saturday), I said, ‘You’re our back-to-the-wall girl so let’s get after it,” Weekly said. “She wants the ball and she’s going to get out there and fight for her team.”

Freshman Ashley Rogers, the former Meigs County star, started on Sunday. After a shaky start on Friday, the right-hander bounced back with 7 2/3 innings of impressive work. She allowed six hits and struck out eight. She retired 15 in a row until Lorenz’s one-out double in the eighth set the stage for Hoover’s hit.

Florida’s other run came in the first inning. A short fly ball that fell between two fielders factored greatly in the scoring.

“It should’ve been caught; it should’ve been caught.” UT co-head coach Ralph Weekly lamented during a post-game radio interview on the Vol Network. “We work on that thing all the time.”

In the end, Tennessee could’ve won, too. That’s the biggest disappointment of all.

* * *

Dan Fleser is a 1980 graduate of the University of Missouri who covered University of Tennessee athletics for the Knoxville News Sentinel from 1988-2019. He can be reached at danfleser3@gmail.com 



Chattanooga Area Swim League

PHOTOS: Lady Red Wolves Beat Nashville 1-0

Pat Benson: Give Ron Washington His Flowers Now


CHATTANOOGA AREA SWIM LEAGUE STANDINGS BLUE DIVISION Ooltewah 3 0 Stuart Heights 2 1 Signal Mountain 2 1 Dalton 1 2 Catoosa 0 4 ... (click for more)

Earlier this week the Atlanta Braves third base coach Ron Washington was the subject of an L.A. Times piece describing the generational divide in MLB between coaches and players. Washington was ... (click for more)


Sports

Chattanooga Area Swim League

CHATTANOOGA AREA SWIM LEAGUE STANDINGS BLUE DIVISION Ooltewah 3 0 Stuart Heights 2 1 Signal Mountain 2 1 Dalton 1 2 Catoosa 0 4 RED DIVISION Calhoun 3 0 Country Club 3 1 Fairyland 2 1 Cleveland 0 3 Red Bank 0 3 WHITE DIVISION Big Ridge ... (click for more)

PHOTOS: Lady Red Wolves Beat Nashville 1-0

Breaking News

Woman Arrested On Drug Charges After Police Confiscate 50 Pounds Of Marijuana, 23 Pounds Of THC Oil

The Chattanooga Police Department Narcotics Unit arrested a woman on drug charges and confiscated 50 pounds of marijuana and 23 pounds of THC oil. Delores Lawrence, 63, of 1303 Arlington Ave., was charged with possession of marijuana for resale and possession of THC oil for resale. CPD narcotics investigators and Gun Team officers on Saturday stopped a suspect who was ... (click for more)

City Council To Vote Tuesday On Restarting Business Improvement District Process

The City Council will vote Tuesday night to restart the process of setting up a Business Improvement District (BID) in downtown Chattanooga. If the vote passes, it would set up a public hearing and final vote on July 23. Council members Erskine Oglesby, Anthony Byrd and Jerry Mitchell are sponsoring the resolution. In a raucous meeting last Tuesday night, there were numerous ... (click for more)

Opinion

Rhonda Thurman: More Money Won't Fix The Problems In The Hamilton County Schools - And Response

“For the Children”, “Invest in our future”, “Our children deserve a first class education”, “Our teachers make less than all the counties around us”, “It will only cost a latte a day or a night a week eating out”, these statements show up at HCDE school budget time as sure as, “Have a nice day” at the bank, “My pleasure” at Chick-fil-a and “Thank you for shopping at Walmart”. These ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: What The Indians Knew

‘Flea’ Chambliss, who was a hale-and-hearty friend for my entire life, died at the age of 81 last week and, when the funeral is held at Lookout Mountain’s Church of the Good Shepherd this coming Tuesday (3:30 p.m.), you can bet some glorious stories will be told. After all, ‘Flea’ was indeed a Chambliss – their family Bible proclaiming he was regally known as John Alexander Chambliss ... (click for more)