Auburn's late comeback bid falls short at Florida

April 5, 2014

Auburn
Auburn
(31-8-1) (6-5 SEC)
 April 5, 2014
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 Auburn Tigers
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 Florida Gators
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Florida
(33-8) (7-7 SEC)

GAINESVILLE, Fla. - The No. 19 Auburn Tigers softball team staged one comeback in Saturday's game with the No. 6 Florida Gators, but could not pull a second comeback as Florida inched by for the 7-6 win, giving Auburn its third-straight loss and its first conference series loss of the season. Auburn is now 31-8-1 on the year and 6-5 in Southeastern Conference play.

Sophomore Marcy Harper suffered her second loss of the season, pitching four innings and giving up five earned runs on four hits and all but one run coming off the home run ball. Senior Hilary Mavromat relieved Harper in the fifth after Kirsti Merritt's second homer of the game. She only allowed one run the rest of the way, on two hits and one walk.

Juniors McKenzie Kilpatrick and Branndi Melero both finished the game as Auburn's top hitters, going 2-for-4 with three RBI and each hitting a home run in the Tigers' four-run third inning. Auburn seemed to have Florida starter, Delanie Gourley's number, but could not seem to get on the reliever, Lauren Haeger, who picked up her seventh win of the year after throwing three innings, giving up only one earned run on two hits and striking out one.

Auburn was down 4-0 to the Gators after two innings of play, but plated four runs in the top of the third with home runs by juniors Branndi Melero and McKenzie Kilpatrick. The two long balls brought the game even at four before Florida re-took the lead in the bottom half of the third.

Florida's Kirsti Merrit broke the tie with a home run of her own in the next frame to give the Gators the 5-4 advantage, but with still plenty of game left. The back-and-forth game continued as the Tigers tied the game for the second time in the fourth, scoring one on a couple of singles by freshman Kasey Cooper and another delivery by Melero. The California-native finished the game 2-for-4 with three RBI, two off the home run.

Auburn kept Florida off the board in the fourth and looked to possibly take its first lead of the game in the fifth. However, the Tigers went down in order, giving Florida another opportunity to take back the momentum. The Gators took the lead for good in the bottom half of the fifth as Merritt hit her second home run of the day to lead-off. Florida hit three more singles in the inning, scoring again to push the lead to 7-5.

Down two going into the seventh inning, the Tigers seemed to possibly have one more ounce of comeback in them as freshman Ashley Leon, reached base on a hit by pitch with one out. In the next at-bat, Kilpatrick hit a soft liner safely into the outfield allowing the speedy Leon to reach third. On a heads-up base running play, Leon cut the lead to 7-6 as Florida never got the ball back into the circle after Kilpatrick's single.

Now only down one run with a runner on first, Auburn seemed primed to make a move and possibly extend the game. Unfortunately, pinch hitter Jenna Abbott fouled out and sophomore Tiffany Howard grounded out to the pitcher to end the game, leaving the runner stranded and giving UF the victory. 

The final game of the three-game series will be played Sunday at Katie Seashole Pressley Stadium in Gainesville, Fla., and is set for a 12 p.m. CST start. Auburn will try to break its three-game losing streak and leave Florida with a win.

All games this weekend can be heard locally on WEGL 91.1 or online at AuburnTigers.com with Kasey Langley on the air. Live stats will also be available on AuburnTigers.com throughout the weekend.

For more information on Auburn softball, visit AuburnTigers.com, follow the team on Twitter @AuburnTigersSB or follow them on Facebook at Facebook.com/AuburnSB.