Auburn's Jade Rhodes has a smile for teammates Emily Carosone and Haley Fagan during World Series play Sunday
By Charles Goldberg
OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. -- Auburn's best softball season ended Sunday, but not before pushing No. 1 Florida to the limit, and then some, at the College World Series.
The Gators beat Auburn 3-2 in nine innings, scoring the winning run with two outs on a play at the plate.
"We will be back," said Auburn coach Clint Myers surveying the World Series scene.
Auburn accomplished much this season, including its first-ever World Series appearance, making the Final Four of the tournament and finishing with a school-record 56 wins.
"I'm really proud of what they accomplished and how they accomplished it," Myers said.
"What a tremendous season for Auburn softball," said Tim Walton, the head coach of the defending national champion Gators.
The Tigers were picked to finish seventh in the SEC in the preseason poll, yet made it to the World Series.
"That says a lot about character, it says a lot about drive," Myers said.
"It propelled us to prove people wrong," said pitcher Lexi Davis.
Auburn finished with a 2-2 record in the World Series, including four-plus-hour 11-10 win over UCLA on Saturday night. The Tigers played 26 innings in just over 24 hours through Saturday and Sunday's games.
"True competitors don't get tired until it's over," Myers said. "Now is the time we have to rest."
Auburn surely tried to play on. Center fielder Morgan Estell made the defensive play of the day when she caught a ball for the second out in the eighth, and threw a strike to catcher Wallace, who spun to catch the runner trying to score the would-be winning run.
Florida scored first in the third on a wild pitch. Auburn took the lead in the fourth on a Branndi Melero 2-run single. The Gators came right back to tie it on a Taylor Fuller line-drive homer. Florida won it on a single by Nicole DeWitt.
Myers said he was proud his pitchers limited Florida to five hits. The problem was on the other side: Auburn left 14 runners on base.
"We had opportunities," Myers said. "Next year's team, we'll cash in on that opportunities. We came up a little short."
Still, Myers said, "That was great competition. That was a heck of a game."
Davis pitched the most innings in NCAA play, just as she did last year.
"I thought she did an outstanding job," Myers said.
Myers said Davis wanted to keep going, despite the long games.
"That's the kind of player you want. 'Coach, I'm good, give me the ball. I'll get back in there.' I want the one who wants to go out there and compete," Myers said.
Florida won the SEC regular-season title. Auburn won the SEC Tournament title.
Auburn made noise in this World Series after losing the opener to LSU. It came back to beat Tennessee and UCLA.
Now, Auburn will try to stay the course.
"Auburn will always be great," Melero said.
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine