By Brad Cox
Special to the Tuscaloosa News
COLLEGE STATION, Texas — Florida rallied late and All-American pitcher Kelly Barnhill made the lead stick for a 2-1 victory over Alabama in the SEC Tournament softball championship game on Saturday night at Texas A&M’s Davis Diamond.
Barnhill was unhittable after the fourth-ranked Crimson Tide pulled ahead 1-0 in the fourth while the Gators; Cheynne Lindsey and Amanda Lorenz came up with big two-out doubles in the sixth to lead the game-winning rally.
“They got their best hitter up to bat with two outs and two on and she came through,” Alabama coach Patrick Murphy said. “Kelly Barnhill pitched a good game and we just didn’t do enough offensively.”
Winner of the regular-season conference title, Alabama (52-7) will find out its postseason plans during the NCAA Softball Tournament Selection Show at 8 p.m. Sunday on ESPN2.
The Tide got things going in the fourth when it got its only two hits to fall against Barnhill.
After KB Sides led the inning off with a walk, Bailey Hemphill ended the no-hitter with a single to left field. Kaylee Tow then hit into a fielder’s choice to get Sides over to third base.
Marris Schroder hit a slow-bouncing grounder to shortstop Sophia Reynoso and Sides took off, beating the throw to the plate to give Alabama the lead.
Skylar Wallace followed with a single up the middle to load the bases, but Barnhill bounced back with a strikeout and a ground out to escape the jam.
“We had bases loaded with one out and the strikeout killed us and then we had a ground out to the pitcher,” Murphy said. “We need to put the ball in play in those situations and good things can happen. Merris Schroder was a good example where she battled her butt off and hit a 14-hopper that their shortstop fielded, but then it was too late for the run. Just have to learn from that and get ready for next weekend.”
Krystal Goodman got the start in the circle for Alabama and found ways to get out of early jams before Montana Fouts took over with two outs in the fourth.
Fouts was solid until running into trouble in the sixth when Lindsey came off the bench for a pinch-hit double that landed just fair down the left-field line.
Jordan Matthews followed with a pinch-hit walk before Lorenz roped a double down the left-field line — again just fair — to score both runners and give Florida the lead.
The Tide couldn’t get another hit to fall after the fourth as Barnhill locked down, working around three walks the rest of the way and securing the sixth-seeded Gators’ come-from-behind tournament victory.