The Florida Gators enter their fall season with the daunting task of replacing two of the greatest players in program history: left fielder/first baseman Amanda Lorenz and pitcher Kelly Barnhill.
Lorenz and Barnhill’s departure to National Pro Fastpitch leaves us thinking, do they belong on UF’s all-time Mount Rushmore?
If there is one lock for softball Mount Rushmore, it’s Stacey Nelson.
The two-time SEC Pitcher of the Year hurled the Gators to their first Women’s College World Series appearance in 2008. She twice led UF to the No. 1 overall seed at the WCWS, finishing in the semifinals in 2008 and in the finals in 2009. The Gators also secured back-to-back SEC regular season and tournament championships spanning from 2008-09.
Nelson sits atop the school rankings in most of the relevant pitching categories, including wins (136), earned-run average (0.99), complete games (133) and shutouts (60).
Florida is not what it is today without Nelson, as the program went from strong to elite in her tenure.
There has to be a player from Florida’s 2014 and 2015 WCWS title teams on Mount Rushmore, and Lauren Haeger’s outstanding 2015 season puts her in front of other greats like Kelsey Stewart, Kirsti Merritt and Delanie Gourley.
Haeger won the 2015 Honda award, which honors the NCAA’s most outstanding softball player. She was also named 2015 USA Softball National Collegiate Player of the Year, 2015 SEC Female Athlete of the Year and 2015 SEC Pitcher of the Year.
She blasted 19 home runs along with 71 RBIs en route to UF’s second national championship, and she went 32-2 in the circle.
More impressively (if that’s even possible), Haeger joined Babe Ruth as the only players in collegiate softball, baseball or Major League Baseball history to record 70 career wins and 70 career home runs.
Lorenz has to be on this list because she took offensive efficiency to a new level during her four years at Florida. She’s the first Gator with an over .400 career batting average and a .500 career on-base percentage.
Just to put into perspective how consistent Lorenz was in her college career, each of her four seasons rank in UF’s top 10 for batting average and on-base percentage. She also is the only Gator to reach base safely in every game of a season, and she holds the program’s single season walks record with 70.
Lorenz is also just one of two Florida players to eclipse 300 career hits (301). Stewart leads with 357 hits, but Lorenz amassed 137 more walks than Stewart. She sits at the top of career walks list with 238. Kayli Kvistad is the next closest with 186.
As the face of the UF softball program for the past three seasons, Kelly Barnhill more than deserves a bust on Florida’s Mount Rushmore.
Barnhill owns plenty of the Gators career pitching records despite Nelson’s dominance in history books. Nobody has struck out more batters (1,208) or limited opponents to a lower batting average (.134). She also averaged a staggering 10.53 strikeouts per seven innings.
Barnhill is most known for her 2017 season. Her sophomore campaign was one of the most dominant ever by a college pitcher, as she held a .51 ERA, a 26-4 record and average 13.0 strikeouts per seven innings.
Her dominance in 2017 earned a litany of accolades: USA Softball Collegiate National Player of the Year, Honda award, espnW Player of the Year, ESPY – Best Female Collegiate Athlete and SEC Pitcher of the Year.
*Inspired by Steve Russell’s radio show, Sports Scene, we have opted to determine the Mount Rushmore of each UF program that we cover. Let us know if you agree or if there are any omissions.
Also, we chose to omit coaches intentionally and will do a totally separate post on the top coaches at UF.