GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The Florida softball team’s season wasn’t going to end on Sunday. Not if senior Delanie Gourley had anything to say about it.
The top-seeded Gators dropped the first game in the NCAA regional final against Oklahoma State that forced a winner-take-all rematch. With Florida on the brink of elimination, Gourley fired off a 1-hit shutout to punch the Gators’ Super Regionals ticket and keep their hopes of a third national title alive.
“We were gonna beat that team that was in the other dugout,” Gourley said after the 5-0, regional-clinching win Sunday. “If it took that first loss to get that fire in us, it did. It’s gonna stay within us for the rest of the postseason.”
That first loss was a tough one to swallow, a 1-0 loss to Oklahoma State despite sophomore Kelly Barnhill giving up just 3 hits in 6 innings. The game-deciding hit was a Vanessa Shippy RBI double up the middle that scored Maddi Holcomb, who singled an at-bat earlier and moved into scoring position on a passed ball a pitch earlier.
Between games, the Gators (53-7) ate a meal and changed uniforms before coach Tim Walton gave them a final pep talk.
“Here we go,” Walton told his team. “We’re the home team. Delanie’s going to shut them down. Delanie’s a senior, and she’s been through this before. She’s won a bunch of games, and she’s going to give us a chance to win.”
Did she ever. The lefty veteran of Florida’s pitching staff struck out 11 batters, allowed just 3 baserunners all game and did not allow Oklahoma State to get a runner in scoring position.
She’s been in this position before. As a freshman, she threw Florida’s first postseason no-hitter in her first postseason appearance. About two weeks later, she earned the win that clinched the Gators’ first national championship.
As a sophomore, she earned the save in Game 1 of the Women’s College World Series championship series against Michigan. Florida won its second straight title two nights later.
And on Friday, she threw her second career postseason no-hitter in a 9-0 win over Florida A&M.
“I think just from the experience I’ve had and my years being here helped a lot,” Gourley said. “I wanted to come out and help set the tone with our team. I had a good feeling that it was going to be a good game on our side, and I just wanted to do whatever I could to keep us in.”
And with Gourley’s performance, Florida is still in the tournament for at least one more week.
Record chasing and breaking
In addition to Gourley’s clutch performance on Sunday, the Florida pitching staff as a whole is chasing and breaking single-season school records. Among them:
- Kelly Barnhill sits at No. 3 for total strikeouts with 310 after striking out 28 batters in two games this past weekend. She is just the second player in Florida softball history to surpass the 300-strikeout mark in a season. The other is Stacey Nelson, who did it twice (357 in 2009 and 363 in 2008).
- Florida set a team record with 597 total strikeouts, which is 50 more than the previous record of 547 set in 2009.
- With 3 shutout wins in the NCAA Regional, Florida has recorded 37 shutouts, which is 2 shy of the school record of 39 also set in 2009.
- If the season ended today, the pitching staff also would set school records for least runs allowed (54; current record is 67), opponent batting average (.146; current record is .156), strikeouts/7 inning game (10.57; current record is 9.14) and total walks allowed (70; current record is 80).
The Gators play host to No. 16 seed Alabama for this week’s Super Regionals round, which begins on Thursday. The Crimson Tide (45-16) swept its own regional and defeated Minnesota, ranked No. 1 in the final NFCA poll, twice in the process in order to advance. Times and TV broadcasts have not yet been announced.