By Pat Dooley
GateHouse Media Services
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — When it was over, Patrick Murphy gathered his team in the pitching circle to give the eulogy on a special season.
There were some tears and a lot of sad looks, but his message was for the Alabama team to keep its collective chin up.
“I told them in circle I’ve been at Alabama for 21 years and this was one of the few teams that actually embraced adversity and met it head on,” Murphy said. “Nobody flinched when we had five walk off (losses).
“They could have folded their tents many times during the season. I just think the way they handled that all year long, it’s going to serve them well the rest of their lives.”
The 16th-seeded Tide (46-18) finished its season with a 2-1 Super Regional loss to SEC rival Florida as the top-seeded Gators (55-8) scored twice in the first and UF ace Kelly Barnhill retired 15 of the final 16 batters she faced.
Alabama held Florida to four runs in three games, but could only score four itself.
“Nobody thought we were going to be here,” said designated player Marisa Runyon, fighting back tears at the postgame news conference. “We showed so many people what we were capable of. We had to take the hard route to get there and we’d rather do that.”
With a crowd of 2,216 watching, Florida did in the first inning what it wasn’t able to do in seven innings Thursday night against Alabama ace Alexis Osorio — score.
After Amanda Lorenz led off with her fifth hit of the series, Kayli Kvistad walked to put runners on first and second.
After Nicole DeWitt struck out without swinging at a pitch, cleanup hitter Aleshia Ocasio watched three pitches sail in before ripping the fourth into right center to score Lorenz.
It was the first run Osorio had given up in the NCAA Tournament this season.
Janell Wheaton walked, but Chelsea Herndon popped out. With an 0-2 count, Osorio nicked Jordan Roberts with a pitch to bring home a run.
“That was probably the only mistake she made,” Murphy said. “Sometimes it gets away.”
Barnhill started the second with a pair of strikeouts, but Rachel Bobo sliced a triple to center. Alissa Brown then chopped a ball to short and shortstop Sophia Reynoso’s hurried throw was wide of the bag.
Brown was credited with a single and Alabama was within a run at 2-1.
But the Tide couldn’t muster much the rest of the way.
“We just didn’t get the hits today,’ Bobo said. “I just felt like we were starting to get cleaner hits on the ball but things didn’t fall out way. Kelly Barnhill is is a great pitcher.
“Swinging at bad pitches was one of our biggest weaknesses in this series.”
Alabama’s Chandler Dare put a charge into one to lead off the sixth but it was caught near the wall in right.
“Chandler’s ball was just barely (short),” Murphy said. “I really thought Bailey (Hemphill) was going to hit her hard because she had hit her hard.”
Instead, she flew out to left and Marisa Runyon flew out to right.
In the seventh, Sydney Brooker struck out but reached when the ball got away from the catcher. Barnhill then got three quick outs to end the game.
“It was really close,” Murphy said. “I guess if we’re going to lose a Super Regional it’s good it was to an SEC team.”