As North Cobb’s freshman ace a year ago, Barnhill helped lead the Lady Warriors to their first appearance in the state finals.
Preparing for the 2012 season, Barnhill worked with her pitching coach on the mental aspect of her game. The results proved fortuitous as she joined the team at her new school, Pope.
Behind Barnhill’s steady hand, the Lady Greyhounds transformed from a state playoff team in 2011 to a state title-contending one this fall, finishing as the Class AAAAA state runner-up in their first state finals showing as a fast-pitch program. Pope also won its first region championship.
“Coming into the year, we said we liked our chances to compete for the region title and potentially go to Columbus without Kelly,” Pope coach Chris Turco said. “But I don’t know that, without her, we go to the championship game like we did.
“I think she’s a huge part in getting us to that point, so she’s absolutely one of the biggest reasons for our success this year. She did have a good supporting cast behind her — not to downplay the other players, but she was absolutely a big cog in our wheel.”
The numbers proved Barnhill’s value.
The 2012 Marietta Daily Journal/Cobb County Softball Pitcher of the Year, ended the season with a 19-5 record and a 0.70 ERA. She struck out 329 batters, while giving up 54 walks in 150 2/3 innings pitched.
Just as impressive, Barnhill, the Region 7AAAAA pitcher of the year, tossed a perfect game, 10 solo no-hitters and one combined no-hitter. She struck out an average of 15.29 batters per seven innings.
“I was just really happy,” Barnhill said of her award as the county’s best pitcher. “It’s such a great honor because there are so many great pitchers in the county. I was just honored to be chosen. It made my day a little happier when I found out.”
Barnhill acknowledged that she didn’t have as much command over her pitches when she was a freshman at North Cobb. Her work over the summer changed that.
“What stuck out for me was I improved from last year,” she said. “My pitching mentally was better. I had more no-hitters and I walked less people. It made me feel good to see me play better.
“I worked harder during the offseason, went to my lessons and listened to my coach. I worked on getting my pitches to the locations I wanted them. Throwing it hard isn’t enough. You have to throw it hard to a spot. Throwing it hard to the backstop doesn’t do anything.”
Turco agreed with Barnhill’s analysis.
“Her command was apparently a lot better than it was from last year,” he said. “She just worked and dominated and had a great defense behind her.
“She’s one of the hardest workers we have. I’ve never seen anything like what she did this year, throwing 11 no-hitters — 10 solos and one combined. It was fun sitting back and watching her pitch.”
One of Barnhill’s favorite pitches was the rise ball — which she said “sat a lot of girls down” — but she was most impressed with how her team came together to achieve so much.
“It was really amazing,” Barnhill said. “We were like a family. At the beginning of the season, it was a little bit rough because a lot of our players got hurt. During the middle, we started getting it together, and the snowball went rolling right on down to state.
“It would have been nice to end on a win and get that state championship, but the cards didn’t happen to fall our way. It was an inning here or there, and that makes the difference. I think we did really well this season, and we’re going to continue to improve.”