After trading wins on Thursday and Friday, Florida and Alabama faced off on Saturday in a winner-takes-a-trip-to-Oklahoma City Game 3 of the Gainesville Super Regional.
It ended like six of the seven postseason games between the two storied programs — with Florida winning, 2-1, and making sure its season would not end at Alabama’s hands.
The Gators scored twice in the bottom of the first inning, pushing runs across via an Aleshia Ocasio single to center and an RBI hit-by-pitch, giving Kelly Barnhill the run support she did not get in a Thursday loss to the Crimson Tide in which she scattered three hits on either side of a three-run sixth inning in which her own throwing errors doomed Florida to a 3-0 loss.
On Saturday, Florida’s sensational sophomore hurler responded to getting the lead with the best postseason game of her young career, giving up nothing of consequence but a triple and an RBI single in the top of the second for the rest of the day. Barnhill set down 16 of the final 17 batters she faced, and struck out 12 Crimson Tide hitters, also recording three strikeouts in the seventh inning thanks to a dropped third strike.
The victory gives Florida a welcome return to the Women’s College World Series after a dramatic exit from the 2016 NCAA Tournament on a walk-off home run from Georgia in the Gainesville Super Regional.
And, of course, the Gators returned to Gainesville from Oklahoma City with back-to-back national titles after their last two Women’s College World Series appearances.