Auburn softball closed the gap between itself and perennial SEC power Florida with back-to-back wins in 2016. But a road win in Gainesville has eluded the Tigers for more than a decade.
The No. 4 Tigers were close to changing that Saturday night. However, a pair of two-out fielding mistakes in the bottom of the seventh inning turned a 3-2 Auburn lead into a 4-3 Auburn loss.
Auburn (27-4, 3-2 SEC) battled back after falling behind 2-0 against Florida (28-1, 6-0) in the second inning. After RBI from Victoria Draper, Courtney Shea and Casey McCrackin in the middle innings, the Tigers were positioned to get the victory.
But Florida stayed alive on a two-out error from Auburn shortstop Haley Fagan in the bottom of the final inning. A hard-hit ground ball toward McCrackin then got away from her, and the Gators brought both runners home to pull off the 4-3 win.
Auburn turned a 1-run deficit to a 1-run lead in the top of the fifth before the chaos of the seventh.
Auburn pulled a run back in the top of the fourth after a leadoff double from McCrackin. The next inning, the Tigers did it again, this time against Florida ace Aleshia Ocasio.
Fagan drilled a single to lead off the inning, and Shea brought her home on the next pitch with a long double to left field. Later in the inning, the Tigers pulled off a well-executed safety squeeze with McCrackin and pinch-runner Bree Fornis to bring in the go-ahead run.
Auburn held that lead into the seventh and was one out from a major road victory through starting pitcher Kaylee Carlson (15-1). The defensive lapses from Fagan and McCrackin flipped the course of the game, though, and gave Florida its 20th consecutive victory.
Player of the Game
2B Casey McCrackin: 1-for-2 with 1 2B and 1 RBI
Before the tough play to end the game, one of Auburn’s newest starters came up big in her first SEC road game.
After striking out on her first trip to the plate, McCrackin led off the fourth with a double into the gap in right-center. The Tigers brought her home two batters later to cut Florida’s early lead in half.
In the next inning, McCrackin made the best play for the Tigers by bringing Fornis home on a safety squeeze. McCrackin’s sacrifice RBI bunt gave Auburn a 3-2 lead, and she helped preserve it with a close defensive play in the seventh to get the second-to-last out.
— Auburn Softball (@AuburnSoftball) March 25, 2017
But McCrackin’s missed defensive opportunity two batters later reversed what would’ve been Auburn’s first road win in Gainesville in 11 years.
What’s next for Auburn softball
The Tigers face the Gators in Game 2 of this top-5 series on Sunday evening.
Auburn softball will look to bounce back against Florida on Sunday. First pitch is scheduled for 7 p.m. ET/6 p.m. CT on ESPN2. Makayla Martin (12-3, 0.98 ERA) is the projected starting pitcher for the Tigers.