Junior third baseman Kasey Cooper (above) had two of Auburn's five hits.
Auburn, Ala.--A pair of three-run homers pushed the Florida Gators to a 6-3 victory over Auburn in the SEC softball opener for both teams.
A two-out shot over the center field fence by Kayli Kvistad in the top of the seventh inning broke a tie game and kept the No. 1 ranked Gators (25-0) unbeaten.
Auburn, which is ranked No. 3 nationally, dropped to 22-2.
“It was a good ball game,” Auburn coach Clint Myers said. “The fans clearly got their money’s worth. The difference in the game was we made two pitching mistakes and they capitalized. We had some balls we could hit and just didn’t.
“We had too many walks and that paid off for them,” said Myers, whose starting pitcher, freshman Makayla Martin, gave up four hits and three walks in 3 2/3 innings.
Makayla Martin pitches for the Tigers.
“We didn’t capitalize when we had a chance,” said Myers, whose Tigers will take on Florida again at 4 p.m. on Sunday and again on Monday evening.
“Where we are at for the first SEC game, I thought it was a hell of a game with a freshman pitching for the very first time (in the SEC),” Myers said. “I would say this is going to be a very interesting series tomorrow.”
Senior Marcy Harper is scheduled to pitch for the Tigers in game two.
The Gators did their first damage in the third inning with two outs on the scoreboard after two close calls for potential strike threes on two batters went against Martin.
The Gators took advantage of the home plate umpire’s generosity when Kirsti Merritt hit a line drive home run over the right center field fence to make the score 3-0.
Martin pitched into the fourth inning when she was pulled with two outs after a walk and infield single. Senior Lexi Davis got the Tigers out of the jam and pitched into the seventh inning.
In the bottom of the fourth inning the Tigers cut the gap to two runs when Carlee Wallace led off with a line shot to center field, which was misplayed by the Gators allowing her to advance to second base.
Carlee Wallace is a sophomore catcher for the Tigers.
Wallace moved to third base on a bunt by Jade Rhodes and scored from there on a line drive sacrifice fly to left field by Jenna Abbott.
The Tigers tied the game with two runs in the bottom of the sixth inning after loading the bases with nobody out.
Emily Carosone and Kasey Cooper started the rally with hard-hit singles. Carlee Wallace walked. Jade Rhodes hit a hard ground ball up the middle, but the shortstop was perfectly positioned to turn a double play.
That scored a run to cut the lead to 3-2. Jenna Abbott tied the contest with a hard-hit ground ball that was mishandled by the shortstop to score Cooper from third base.
Florida regained its three-run lead in the top of the seventh inning as Rachel Walters gave up the two-out, three-run homer in relief of Lexi Davis. Myers said the senior made a mistake on her location of that pitch.
The Auburn crowd showed up despite some rain during the game and left unhappy with the result and some of the decision by the umpire crew, especially home plate umpire Brandon Bluhm.
As was the case with the first home run, Auburn fans were grumbling about umpire’s calls that extended the inning and gave the Gators a chance to win the game.
“We just talked about that,” Myers said of what he told his team. “We are not going to make any excuses or put any blame. You have got three very good umpires here. They do their job, we have to do ours.”
The teams play game two of the series at 4 p.m. CST on Sunday.