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Kirsti Merritt hit two home runs to power Florida to a series-clinching win over Auburn.

Saturday April 5, 2014Florida Defeats Auburn, 7-6, to Win Series

Gainesville, Fla.

Kirsti Merritt hit two home runs to power Florida to a series-clinching win over Auburn.

BOX SCORE

 

The No. 6/7 Gator Softball team defeated No. 19 Auburn on Saturday (April 5) at Katie Seashole Pressly Softball Stadium. Florida’s offense produced three home runs, and the Orange and Blue scored seven or more runs for the fifth time in SEC play to support Lauren Haeger (Peoria, Ariz.), who improved to 7-1 in relief of Delanie Gourley (Lakeside, Calif.). Senior Hannah Rogers (Lake Wales, Fla.) pitched the seventh inning to earn the save for the Gators (33-8, 7-7 SEC).  

 

Auburn (31-8-1, 6-5 SEC) loaded the bases with no outs in the first, but Gourley retired three straight batters to get out of the jam. In the bottom of the frame, the Tigers hit Chelsea Herndon (Carrollton, Texas) with a pitch and walked Haeger before Stephanie Tofft (Lincoln, Calif.) slugged a three-run home run to right field that gave Florida a 3-0 lead.

 

Gourley issued a two-out walk in the second, but induced a fielder’s choice to retire the Tigers. Taylore Fuller (Trenton, Fla.) walked to lead off the bottom of the inning, and then advanced to third on two wild pitches before coming home on an RBI double by Kelsey Stewart (Wichita, Kan.).

 

Auburn tied the game at four with a pair of two-run home runs to center field in the third inning before Kirsti Merritt (Lake Panasoffkee, Fla.) put the Gators back in front with a solo homer off the flagpole beyond the center-field wall to start the bottom of the frame. Haeger replaced Gourley in the circle for the fourth inning.

 

A leadoff walk proved costly for Florida as Auburn tied the game at 5-5 in the fourth. Aubree Munro (Brea, Calif.) walked to lead off the bottom of the frame, but she was stranded at second. Haeger set the Tigers down in order before the Gators offense produced two runs in the fifth. Merritt put the Gators ahead with her second home run of the game to lead off the inning, followed by a single from Haeger and an RBI base hit up the middle by Taylor Schwarz (Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.) that scored pinch-runner Jessica Damico (Gray Summit, Mo.).  

 

Haeger hit one batter and walked another with two down in the sixth, but got out of the inning with a foul out. Pinch-hitter Justine McLean (Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.) drew a two-out walk in the bottom of the frame, but she was stranded. Rogers entered to close out the game for the Gators, limiting Auburn to one run an RBI single to save the win for Haeger and secure the series victory for Florida.

 

NOTABLES

·         Merritt’s home runs were her fourth and fifth in the last six games; she had hit three home runs in 35 games before the Tennessee series.

·         Merritt posted her third multi-homer game of the season. She and Haeger (2) have accounted for all five of the team’s multi-homer games.

·         Tofft’s blast was her sixth of the season, pulling into a three-way tie with Schwarz and Fuller for third place on the Gators (Haeger, 10 home runs; Merritt, 8).

·         The three-run shot gave Tofft 39 RBI on the season, finishing the game in a tie for the team lead with Stewart.   

·         Stewart’s double in the second increased her reached-base streak to 41 games, extending her single-season program record.

·         Rogers’ save was her first since June 1, 2013, when she worked the final frame of Florida’s 15-inning win over Nebraska at the Women’s College World Series.

 

WALTON’S WORDS

Head Coach Tim Walton

On Merritt’s production since she moved to the No. 3 spot in the batting order:

“It’s nice. We moved her to the 3-hole to try to get some good at-bats behind Kelsey Stewart and in front of Lauren Haeger, and she’s really doing a nice job. She swings hard, and you love her effort.”

 

On the Gators’ pitchers getting stops when they needed to:

“It’s a grind of a season. The main thing for me is watching Hannah come out and get the save. Lauren made some good pitches, and they put some good swings on some good pitches. At the end of the day, Delanie Gourley has such good stuff, and she’s going to be such a good pitcher. I really will for her to have better games, better outings, because she’s really good.”

 

On what Florida needs to do Sunday to sweep Auburn:

“We need to come out and manufacture some runs, and play maybe a little better than we played tonight. We gave them a couple extra outs that we can’t give up to good teams like that. Just play a little bit better and pitch a little bit better to keep them off balance. They’re going to come out and take their hacks. We’re going to have to do a good job of changing speeds, changing locations and making good plays.”

 

PLAYER QUOTES

Sophomore CF Kirsti Merritt

On her efforts to improve on offense:

“Coach wants us to put more time in, spend more time watching film, not just putting time into the batting cage. He has been tweaking things and doing a really good job. He is just working on little things.”

 

On breaking a 5-5 tie with a home run to lead off the fifth inning:

“I don’t think there is any pressure on this team. When I come up to bat I feel like they are behind me no matter what and if I’m going to hit a homerun I’m going to hit a home run, if I strikeout the team is going to be like it’s no big deal.”

 

On hitting a home run off the flagpole in center field:

“Once in a lifetime, never again will I hit the flag pole. I actually thought that it hit the wall and I was wondering why the ball was still in play and I kept running then the umpire told me it was ok to slow down, that the ball went over.”

 

On mechanical changes to her swing lately:

“All we did was twist my back foot, and that keeps my hand in my swing and my hips wide open.”

 

On keeping the momentum going:

“Our strength coach [Paul Chandler] always sends us inspirational quotes every morning before a game. We have been passing around inspirational quotes and sending our quotes to each other.”

 

Senior 3B Stephanie Tofft

On her home run:

“It went over [the fence], so it was nice.”

 

On getting out of the first inning:

“It’s always our goal to get on top in the first inning; I was just trying to help make that happen. The runners in front of me did a good job getting on base and getting over.”

 

On the team’s metal state:

“It’s the same as it was before, were just getting it done now, we are making adjustments, making plays. We are just out here to win and playing our hardest.”

 

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UP NEXT

The Gators will go for the series sweep Sunday at 1 p.m. ET. GatorVision will have live video for subscribers, and radio coverage will be provided on WGGG (1230-AM), with Adam Schick and former Gator All-American Megan Bush on the call. In addition, fans can access Gametracker on the GatorZone.com schedule page to find live stats.

 

-UF-

 

 

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