In fact, she may have even gotten better.
The two-time Marietta Daily Journal/Cobb County Pitcher of the Year is sporting a 6-2 record entering today’s game with Sprayberry, owning a 0.79 ERA with 134 strikeouts through 53 innings pitched. Barnhill has allowed only 16 runs — six earned — on 18 hits.
Barnhill has also posted double-digit strikeout totals in every game she’s pitched, including what was a team-record 21 in an eight-inning loss to Chapel Hill. Three games later, however, she broke the record by fanning 23 batters in an eight-inning victory over River Ridge, then added the record for strikeouts in a seven-inning game with 19 in a win over Etowah.
Barnhill, who has two career perfect games to her credit, earned her 17th career no-hitter with a five-inning, 13-strikeout effort in a win over Cherokee.
Barnhill, who spent her freshman season at North Cobb, owns several career records at Pope, including strikeouts, wins, career ERA, opponent batting average, strikeouts per game and strikeouts per inning.
The Class AAAAA pitcher of the year in 2013 despite playing only half the season, Barnhill appears to be even more dominant in the circle this time around, and she says she owes it to the work she put in during the offseason.
“I worked with my pitching coach, Stacy Tamborra, on my form,” Barnhill said. “We worked on the basics and staying on my power line and blocking through the front leg, which helps get more resistance on the pitch. When you have better form, you throw more strikes, and that’s what I’ve been able to do.
“I want to be a pitcher instead of a thrower. I’m learning what to pitch and when to pitch it and how to deliver it. It’s been really exciting to go out and help the team.”
Pope coach Chris Turco had a feeling before the season that Barnhill might have her best year to date with the Lady Greyhounds.
“Right at the beginning of the year, (Barnhill) told me that she didn’t walk as many people over the summer,” he said. “I could tell early on that her command had definitely improved.
“She’s really focused, and she’s always been driven, and she wants to take her game to the top level. Her command is a big focus of her game.”
A telling sign about Barnhill’s command was a stretch in which she went three straight games without giving up walk or a run, while accumulating 50 strikeouts. The 23-strikeout performance against River Ridge was something Turco said he’ll never forget.
“She’d pitched 21 strikeouts in a game twice before,” he said. “I told the girls, the first time, to soak that game in, because they’ll never see something like that again. Then, Kelly goes and does it again. Now, to see her throw 23 strikeouts — I just get a chuckle out of that. I feel lucky to have been a part of it.”
After collecting 360 strikeouts last year, Barnhill says her goal this season is to get 500. And while she’s proud of her 23-strikeout performance, she’s most excited about the two home runs she’s hit this year — the first of her high school career.
“My mom saw both of them, so I’m really happy about that,” Barnhill said.
With college offers including Stanford and Florida, Barnhill is leaving her mark with the Lady Greyhounds.
“There’s no doubt she’s the best pitcher we’ve had,” Turco said. “The numbers speak for themselves.”