Tim Casey UAA Communications

#1 Florida wins series over Auburn, suffers first loss

The No. 1-ranked Florida Gators almost came out of Auburn unscathed, but lost their first game on the season in the series finale.

The Gators (26-1) visited the No. 3-ranked Tigers (22-3) for a three-game series stretching from Saturday to Monday.

Florida won Saturday’s game 6-3 thanks to CF Kristi Merritt’s and 1B Kayli Kvistad’s three-run home runs.

Delanie Gourley was on the mound for five innings, but Aleshia Ocasio picked up the win after coming into the game in the 6th inning.

The Gators took Sunday’s contest by a score of 8-5. 3B Taylore Fuller had a huge day for Florida as she went 3-3 at the plate and drove in two runs.

Kelly Barnhill started on the mound for the Gators, but she struggled in the 3rd inning and was replaced by Aleshia Ocasio once the inning was over. Ocasio picked up her ninth win by the end of Sunday’s game.

The Gators came into Monday’s finale with their second-best start ever (26-0). Unfortunately, they couldn’t keep it going and dropped the contest by a score of 5-4.

Florida’s offense started out slow, but found itself in the 5th inning when they scored three runs to take a 4-2 lead. Auburn answered with a run to make it 4-3 at the end of the 5th.

The Gators brought Ocasio in for relief for the third straight game after Gourley’s six-inning effort, but Ocasio gave up two runs in the bottom of the 7th inning leading the Tigers to victory.

Auburn’s 1B Jade Rhodes knocked in the winning run on an infield single. Ocasio picked up her first loss on the season bringing her win-loss record to 9-1.

Head coach Tim Walton wasn’t pleased that his team couldn’t seal the deal in the final inning.

“Overall, we didn’t play great Gator softball in the seventh inning,” Walton said after Monday’s loss. “When you give a good team an opportunity and allow them to knock on the door, you see what happens. However, our issues were way before that when we had a chance to put Auburn away. We had plenty of opportunities to score a lot of runs. I said it even with the two victories, we have to do a better job of putting team’s away and we didn’t do that today.”

The Gators shouldn’t be too down on themselves, though. Their fantastic start has helped put them on another national-title hunt.

Florida returns home Wednesday to face Winthrop at 6 p.m.

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