The No. 6/7 Florida Gator Softball team finally put their struggles to rest Friday night defeating the No. 19 Auburn Tigers by a score of 4-2. After losing three straight to the Tennessee Volunteers and a mid-week game to FSU, the Gators were desperately looking for some momentum.
The Gators received just that on Friday, coming into the game against the Tigers with a 10 game winning streak in Gainesville against Auburn.
The Gators went with their ace, senior Hannah Rogers, in the circle despite some troubles of late; she lost the last three games she pitched in coming into Friday’s contest, but still held a 14-6 record on the season. On Wednesday Rogers was named one of 10 finalists for the senior CLASS award and on Friday she showed everyone just why she was honored.
Rogers began the game in a little trouble, allowing two Tiger base runners in the first inning, but she was able to strand them without allowing a hit. With that confidence, Rogers was seemingly able to take over.
Over the next three innings Rogers was able to sit down every batter she faced, recording six strikeouts. While Rogers enjoyed success in the circle, the Gator offense was able to provide a little spark of its own. In the third inning the Gators got their first hit, a double from sophomore catcher Aubree Munroe. Junior Kathlyn Medina bunted her to third and with a single from sophomore infielder Kelsey Stewart, the Gators were on the board.
From this point on both pitchers seemed to settle in and it wasn’t until the sixth inning where things got interesting. Auburn sophomore infielder Emily Carosone led off the inning by getting hit with a pitch and that was followed by a double from junior center fielder Morgan Estell and just like that the game was tied 1-1. However, Auburn was not done as two batters later junior right fielder Branndi Melero plated Estell with an RBI single to take a 2-1 lead.
However, if there is one thing this Gator squad has been able to do this year, it is to score late, and score late is exactly what they were able to do. Despite sophomore center fielder Kirsti Merritt and designated player Lauren Haeger unable to find base to start the sixth, the Gators were able to produce a huge two out rally.
Senior third baseman Stephanie Tofft who had been hampered with injury began the charge with a single. Sophomore first baseman Taylor Schwarz followed with a walk and sophomore Taylore Fuller followed with a single up the middle plating pinch runner Jessica Damico who had come on for Tofft. As if the excitement of tying the game wasn’t enough, Munroe stepped to the plate and belted another line drive, this time over the head of the center fielder plating both Schwarz and Fuller for her second double of the game.
Now sitting with a 4-2 lead, Rogers was able to retire the Tigers in order in the seventh inning, giving Florida its first SEC win since March 14 against the LSU Tigers.
The Gators improved their overall record to 32-8 on the season, and to 6-7 in SEC play. Rogers recorded her 15th win of the season pitching a complete game allowing just two runs and three hits. After the game Rogers talked about what she had been working on and what led to her success Friday night.
“Delanie and I and the rest of the pitchers have been working hard in the bullpen throughout the week. We were hitting good spots and finding what was working for us,” she said.
Munroe was the most productive Gator at the plate Friday night producing her fourth multi-RBI game of the season. With her two doubles on the night she now leads the Gators in doubles on the season with nine. She talked about having one of her most successful nights at the plate.
“It felt good. I’ve been trying to get back to being simple, because that’s what works for me. I’m not a home run hitter, so just doing my job and keeping it simple has been really good for me.”
Kelsey Stewart was able to increase her reached-base streak to 40 games as she still leads the Gators in batting with a .406 average on the year. Kathlyn Medina received her first start since March 8th against Ole Miss and recorded her first hit since March second against the Maryland Terrapins.
The Gators will look to take the series in game two on Saturday night. A win would give Florida its first SEC series victory since LSU back in mid-March. First pitch for Saturday’s game is set for 5pm.
To hear more post-game comments from Head Coach Tim Walton and a few players, click on the links below: