Special report on the Florida Gators softball team:
AUBURN, Ala. – Florida (26-1/2-1 SEC) dropped its first game of the season as Auburn (22-3/1-2 SEC) walked off in the bottom of the seventh inning to defeat the Gators, 5-4, on Monday evening at Jane B. Moore Field.
The loss snapped Florida’s 27 game winning streak dating back to last season.
Delanie Gourley tossed the first six innings of the game and recorded seven strikeouts. Sophomore Aleshia Ocasio (9-1) relieved her in the seventh and gave up two runs on two hits, marking her first blown save of her career.
Auburn scored first for the second game in a row, as Jade Rhodes launched a two-run homer to centerfield in the second inning.
After Gourley danced out of a bases-loaded jam in in the third, Florida used that momentum to cut the AU lead in half in the fourth. Sophomore Kayli Kvistad recorded an RBI ground out, which scored Kirsti Merritt who was hit by a pitch to lead off the inning.
One inning later, a pair of singles by Nicole DeWitt and Aubree Munro set the table for Merritt. The senior came through as she powered a three-run homer, her second of the series, giving the Gators a 4-2 lead.
Undaunted, Auburn had an answer.
Senior Emily Carosone hit her second home run in the series in the bottom of the fifth, which closed the Florida lead to one run.
Gourley than retired five of the final six hitters she faced before Aleshia Ocasio relieved her in the seventh.
Ocasio walked the leadoff batter, who eventually came around to score on a fielder’s choice. Carosone drove the run in and moved to second on a fielder’s choice following a Kasey Cooper single to left. After a groundout moved the runners into scoring position, Jade Rhodes recorded an infield single to score the winning run.
News & Notes
Florida’s senior class is now 199-29, which currently ranks ninth among four-year class records in program history.
Sitting eighth on this list UF’s 2008 graduating class that went 204-75 throughout its four seasons.
Taylore Fuller, Kirsti Merritt, Aubree Munro, Taylor Schwarz and Kelsey Stewart are trying to catch UF’s 2011 class which boasted a 238-33 mark during their four years.
This was a matchup of the 2015 SEC regular season champs vs. the SEC tournament champs. Since softball’s inception in the SEC in 1997, this type of series has occurred eight times. The reigning tournament champs have won that series four times, the regular season champs have earned three series victories and UA and UT split a doubleheader in 2008.
Florida became the fourth team to win this series tomorrow after being the SEC regular season champs a season ago.
Kayli Kvistad – seven games (career long)
Justine McLean – six games (career long)
UF did not allow a stolen base on Monday, remaining the only team in the SEC who has yet to allow more than one stolen base in 2016.
The Gators batted .330 on the weekend and its pitching staff compiled a 3.39 earned run average, with 24 strikeouts and eight walks.
Taylore Fuller paced the Gators this weekend against Auburn as she hit .500 (5 for 10) with one triple, one home run, two RBI and two runs scored.
Kirsti Merritt was the top run-producer for UF this weekend as she three for nine with one double, two home runs, six RBI and four runs scored.
Kirsti Merritt hit her fourth home run of the season and 32nd of her career in the fifth inning.
Amanda Lorenz recorded her team-leading seventh double of the season in the fourth inning.
Head Coach Tim Walton:
On the game overall…
“Overall, we didn’t play great Gator softball in the seventh inning. When you give a good team an opportunity and allow them to knock on the door, you see what happens. However, our issues were way before that when we had a chance to put Auburn away. We had plenty of opportunities to score a lot of runs. I said it even with the two victories, we have to do a better job of putting team’s away and we didn’t do that today.”
On Kirsti Merritt…
“To be down a run and for her to put that swing on what looked like a changeup is really good. Just to see our response and be able to come back from being down on the road in a pretty big time environment is good to see.”
UF still holds a 38-19 edge on AU in the two schools’ all-time series.
This weekend marks Florida’s first visit to Auburn, Ala. since 2013 where the Gators are 16-11 against the Tigers. Florida has not lost a series at Auburn since 2005.
The Gators will return home to face Winthrop on Wednesday at 6 p.m. ET. Live streaming will be available to subscribers on SEC Network+. In addition, the game can be heard on Florida Sports Talk (WGGG-AM & WMOP-AM/FM.