Before the No. 3 Florida softball team’s first round matchup against Auburn in the SEC tournament, senior Aja Paculba thought the Tigers were going to look for some revenge after sweeping them in April.
They got more than some by knocking the No. 2 seed Gators (47-9) out of the tournament.
Florida senior Stephanie Brombacher gave up three early runs to the Tigers in the first inning thanks to two hits and an error, and they never looked back as No. 7-seed Auburn (39-16) defeated UF 6-2 on Thursday.
Gators’ head coach Tim Walton pulled the senior from Pembroke Pines, FL, after facing only six batters in the first inning in favor for freshman Hannah Rogers.
“I didn’t think she was as good as she needed to be, and I didn’t think we were very good behind her so when you have two #1 pitchers in your dugout, you gotta change direction and go for the other one,” he said.
Walton said his decision to “change gears” was something he wanted to do before Auburn could create a bigger deficit for his team to get out of.
Rogers kept the Tigers to only two hits in the next three innings and the Gators scored their first run of the game in the bottom of the fourth thanks to a RBI-single by senior catcher Tiffany DeFelice.
But in the very next frame, Auburn tagged on three more runs off of three hits and two more Florida errors to bring the score to 6-1.
A Kasey Fagan single up the middle brought in Cheyenne Coyle in the bottom of the seventh inning to give Florida its last run of the game.
In a three game set at Auburn on April 16 and 17, the Gators outscored the Tigers by 25 runs, scoring 35 total off of 40 hits.
This time around, Auburn pitchers Jenne Loree and Angel Bunner held Florida in check as both lefties allowed only one run on three hits with a walk in three and four innings, respectively.
“You play these teams so many times, three times in a row, you’re bound to get beat every once in a while,” Walton said. “If this were a three game series, it’d be better tomorrow but it wasn’t. It’s a one-game series and we’re going home. We weren’t as good as we wanted to be.”
With the loss, the Gators will await seeding in the NCAA tournament until Sunday night when the 2011 NCAA Selection Show airs on ESPNU.
Walton said the early exit was a product of being unprepared for Auburn, but it gives the Gators a renewed sense of focus going into practice in preparation of their first NCAA tournament game.
“I’m giving them all the credit,” he said. “I didn’t think we were that bad. They were that good. They were on top of their game and we were not.”
Gator Country reporter Safid Deen can be reached at Safid@GatorCountry.com. You can also follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/SafidDeenGC.