A long, grueling extra-inning contest did not go in favor of the Florida’s Softball team on Saturday.
The Gators (38-13; 10-10) suffered a 2-1 loss to the Auburn Tigers (35-14; 10-10) at Jane B. Moore Field in Game 2 of the SEC series.
Tigers’ starter Chardonnay Harris didn’t need anybody to relieve her in this one. The left-handed sophomore twirled 10 innings of one-run ball. She held Florida to just five hits and was able to work around the four walks she issued. Harris also set her career high in strike outs with 17.
The struggles continue for Florida’s offense in conference play. Tim Walton’s team entered Saturday’s contest second-to-last in runs scored in SEC play and last in batting average as well.
Florida couldn’t capitalize on another effective performance from freshman starter Elizabeth Hightower (6 IP, ER, 2H, 3 BB, 7 K). Hightower’s now allowed only five earned runs in her last 20.1 innings of work.
— Gators Softball (@GatorsSB) April 27, 2019
Florida’s offense stymied again
Friday’s game seemed like a real breakthrough for Florida’s bats. Seven different hitters collected hits, as Walton’s offense put seven runs on the visiting scoreboard. That, to go along with a no-hitter from starter Kelly Barnhill, was an ideal recipe for a victory.
Saturday was a much different story. Seven of the first 10 Gator hitters that faced Harris on Saturday were retired via the punch out.
Both starters actually had no-hitters going into the sixth inning. Then, both offenses finally awoke. In the top of the sixth, Florida jumped out to a 1-0 lead when Jaimie Hoover drove in Amanda Lorenz with an RBI single.
The Gator’s only lead didn’t last long.
In the bottom half of that frame, Hightower made her only real mistake pitch of the night. Tiger catcher Kendall Veach would take her deep to left field for a solo home run to tie the ballgame.
From there, Auburn would ride their lefty starter until they could muster another run for her in the 10th inning.
What it means
Walton should be satisfied with another effective performance from Hightower; her reemergence at this point in the season could add a crucial element of depth to the Gators’ pitching staff.
But Florida’s struggles on offense have been a cause for concern for some time now. After today, they’re averaging just 3.45 runs per game in conference play.
This team’s strength clearly lies in it’s pitching staff. Only two teams have a better team ERA in SEC play than Florida (Ole Miss and Alabama).
Still, Lorenz and Kendyl Lindaman are the only hitters that started today slashing above the .300 line. Walton has reiterated throughout the season that his team needs another hitter to step up, and Saturday’s game showed that’s still the case.
Sunday’s rubber match is set for 2 p.m. ET from Auburn, Alabama.
— Auburn Softball (@AuburnSoftball) April 27, 2019