Jade Rhodes (above) drove home three runs for the Tigers, including the game winner.
Auburn, Ala.--Trailing 4-3 going into the final inning, Auburn rallied with two runs to salvage the final game of an SEC softball series with a victory over No. 1 ranked and previously unbeaten Florida.
First baseman Jade Rhodes came through for the Tigers with a two-out single to score Emily Carosone from first base. Both of the seniors also homered for the Tigers, who improved their record to 23-3 overall and 1-2 in the SEC while the Gators fell to 25-1 and 2-1 in the league.
“It felt great having my teammates look at me and say that they believe in me and know I can do this,” Rhodes said. “It really makes me feel a lot better about myself and just makes me relax at the plate.”
Rhodes said it was extra special to come through with the big hit as a senior. “I kind of wanted to cry, but I am not really an emotional person so I couldn’t get it out me,” the daughter of former Major League pitcher Arthur Rhodes said. “It feels great to win this game and do it here.”
For a third consecutive game the Gators burned the Tigers with a three-run homer. That shot by Kirsti Merritt put the Gators up 4-2 in the top of the inning.
The Tigers responded with a Carosone homer in the bottom of the inning and then the game-winning rally in the bottom of the seventh started by little-used Emily Spain, who Coach Clint Myers put in as a pinch-hitter.
“Probably the best at-bat in the entire inning was Emily Spain,” Myers said of the leadoff walk against Aleshia Ocasio, who came in to pitch the seventh in place of starter Delanie Gourley.
“She is a good contact hitter,” Myers said. “We said, ‘Emily, your job is to get to first base. You don’t have to go any further because we’ll put Vic (Victoria Draper) back in so let’s go.’”
Draper, the fastest player on the team, came back in the game to run for Spain. She moved into scoring position with a passed ball and moved to third base when Tiffany Howard hit a ground ball out to second base.
Carosone then hit a ground ball to the right side of the infield and the Gators tried to cut down the tying run at the plate, but couldn’t get Draper. "I was keeping in mind I can't be the hero," Carosone said. "We needed that run to tie it so we could keep going so I was just trying to hit the ball on the ground with a fast runner at third base and that is what happened."
Emily Cooper is an All-American second baseman for the Tigers.
Kasey Cooper followed with a line drive single to left field to move Carosone to second base. Carlee Wallace moved Carosone to third on a groundout to second base setting the stage for Rhodes, who used her speed to beat the throw to first base on a ground ball up the middle fielded by the shortstop.
“She was composed, she knew exactly what she wanted to do,” Myers said of the game-winning RBI from Rhodes. “She got a good pitch and she put a good swing on it.”
Freshman Makayla Martin was the winning pitcher throwing one inning of relief of Kaylee Carlson, who gave up eight hits and four runs in six innings.
“We have a good pitching staff," Myers said. “They didn’t throw as well as they could, but Kaylee was magnificent out there. She changed the quadrants, she changed the speeds on both sides of the plate.”
Kaylee Carlson got her first SEC start vs. the Gators.
The Tigers scored first with a pair of runs in the second inning as Rhodes smashed a line drive over the center field fence to score Carlee Wallace, who had walked.
The Gators cut the lead to 2-1 in the top of the fourth inning before their fourth three-run homer of the series put Florida up 4-2 to set the stage for Auburn’s comeback victory.
Myers said he had no doubts the Tigers were going to make a push on the Gators late in the contest. “Nobody in the dugout was worried,” he said. “Everybody in the dugout believed we were going to come back. You could sense it. You could feel it.”
Carosone agreed with her coach and said, "They were undefeated and we were not going to allow it on our home field. It was a tough game. They played great, we had some good calls and we had some great pitching."
The Tigers return to action with a 5 p.m CDT game on Wednesday vs. Samford before visiting Starkville for a three-game series Friday through Sunday at Mississippi State.