Oklahoma City--Picked to finish in the lower half of in the Southeastern Conference this season, the Auburn Tigers’s record-setting softball season ended on Sunday as No. 1 Florida pulled out a 3-2, walk-off victory in extra innings at the College World Series.
A two-out single to left field by Kelsey Stewart allowed the Gators to advance to the championship round that starts on Monday.
The Tigers finished their year with a 56-11 record and their first appearance in school history at the College World Series. The Gators, the 2014 national champions, improved to 58-6.
“These kids were picked to finish eighth in our conference and yet they were one of four remaining teams at the College World Series,” Auburn coach Clint Myers said. “That says a lot about them. It says a lot about character, it says a lot about drive and it was a lot of fun. And, we will be back.”
Myers said his team lost to a “great team that was well coached.” He added, “They have a lot of great athletes. They are going to do well.”
Coach Clint Myers
Auburn’s second-year coach boldly predicted he was taking his new team to the College World Series. He also said he did not believe in rebuilding. He delivered with a strong season in 2014 and an even better one this year. “We told them at the very beginning they are going to start a legacy at Auburn and they are,” Myers said.
The coach noted the expectation is to return to Oklahoma City “every year with a chance to play for that national championship.”
The Tigers needed to defeat Florida twice on Sunday to advance to the championship round and came close to winning their first matchup of the season vs. the Gators. Auburn out-hit Florida 11-5, but College Player of the Year, pitcher Lauren Haeger, escaped trouble time after time as the Tigers stranded 14 runners on base.
The Gators took the lead with a single run in the third inning on wild pitch by Lexi Davis, who gave up just four hits in 7 1/3 innings before being pulled.
Auburn took the lead with two runs in the top of the fourth inning on a single by senior left fielder Branndi Melero.
The Tigers had other opportunities to score. The Gators helped their cause with several outstanding defensive plays, including two throws by center fielder Kirsti Merritt to the plate allowing the Gator catcher to tag out Auburn runners.
Florida tied the game in the bottom of the fourth on a solo homer by Taylore Fuller and neither team scored again until the ninth although both had multiple chances to do that.
After two pitches by Davis in the ninth when she was laboring after also pitching in Auburn’s extra inning win over UCLA on Saturday night, she was replaced by fellow junior Marcy Harper.
The Gators got two runners on base via walks to set up the walk-off win on a single hit softly into left field.
“I am very proud to say I am the head coach of the Auburn University softball team,” said Myers, who had high praise for the work ethic of his team from the start to finish of the season.
Junior pitcher Lexi Davis finished the season with 26 wins and two losses.
Davis agreed with her coach. “Everybody was saying we didn’t have experience coming into this, but I think we did a pretty good darn job for never being here. Last night (win vs. UCLA) was a heck of a lot of fun and today we just ran out of at-bats. My teammates did a great job. They picked me up whenever I got into a jam and I couldn’t be more proud of every single one of them. And, we will back.”
Auburn Notes: The game was the first this season that left fielder Tiffany Howard was not the leadoff batter. The slumping junior moved to ninth in the order and Emily Carosone, who led off last season, moved to the top of the batting order...McKenzie Kilpatrick got her first start of the College World Series as the designated hitter in place of Jenna Abbott...Auburn’s 56 victories is a school record...Carlee Wallace, Morgan Estell and Tiffany Howard had two hits apiece for the Tigers. Estell, the senior team captain, had the defensive play of the game for the Tigers by throwing a runner out at the plate to give her team a chance to win in extra innings...Florida coach Tim Walton said he was not surprised to see Auburn advance to the final four at the World Series. "They have a great offense, great coaches and great competitors," he said. "It was just a great game, a great softball game. They were tough to prepare for."