No. 3 Gator softball edges Auburn in opener

Published: Friday, April 13, 2012 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, April 14, 2012 at 12:03 a.m.

Kelsey Horton's bloop RBI single in the bottom of the fifth scored Sami Fagan with the go-ahead run and sophomore starter Hannah Rogers tossed her 18th complete game of the season as No. 3 Florida edged Auburn, 3-2, in the opener of a three-game SEC series Friday night.

A Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium crowd of 1,059 saw the Gators (36-5, 16-2) win for the seventh time in their last eight games, while the Tigers (26-16, 5-12) dropped their fifth straight.

“They were playing deep all night, so that short hit over the shortstop was open all game,” Horton said. “I was just trying to fight off a two-strike pitch, and it landed in no-man's land, so I was happy about that.”

Fagan, the reigning SEC Freshman of the Week, started off the inning with a single, chasing Auburn starter Lauren Schmalz, then took second on a wild pitch from reliever Angel Bunner. After a strikeout and a walk, Horton's hit easily scored the speedy Fagan.

The game-winning hit gave Horton, UF's junior catcher, 37 RBIs on the year, tying her for the top spot on the team with freshman first baseman/pitcher Lauren Haeger.

“If it can be me, I'm happy,” she said. “But if it can be somebody different, every time, that's what we want. I'm glad it was me tonight.”

“It's nice to see,” said head coach Tim Walton. “She's been able to get some clutch hits when they matter and to sustain a long season behind the plate is tough. It's not always easy to stay mentally tough when you get your at-bats, but she's doing a good job.”

Senior center fielder Michelle Moultrie's leadoff home run in the third inning, her ninth of the year, gave UF a 1-0 lead, but Auburn responded with a pair of runs in the top of the fourth.

First baseman Caitlin Jordan drove Rogers' second pitch of the inning over the scoreboard in left-center to knot things at 1, and the Tigers eventually forged ahead.

With the bases loaded and two outs, Auburn's Brooke Lathan hit a ball between short and third that Gator sophomore shortstop Cheyenne Coyle was able to scoop up. She won a footrace to the bag at third for what appeared to be the final out of the inning, but Fagan, UF's third baseman who also tried to make a play on the ball, was ruled to have interfered with the base runner, with the run that scored on the play counting.

The Gators answered right back, with freshman Bailey Castro, UF's designated player, doubling to center with one out in the home half of the fourth. Freshman Jess Damico pinch-ran for her and took third on a wild pitch before scoring a clutch one-out, two-strike single from junior Ensley Gammel to tie things at 2-all.

Rogers (21-3), who allowed four hits and had six strikeouts, picked up the win, but it didn't come easy. Auburn's Jordan blasted a triple to right with two outs in the seventh to put the potential tying run 60 feet from home, but Rogers got Elizabeth Eisterhold on a groundout to second to end the game.

“I thought she (Rogers) was okay,” Walton said. “I think she made a couple of mistakes, but we played good defense behind her and she pitched out of her mistakes. She's always been that kind of pitcher.”

Schmalz (7-7), a redshirt senior from Pembroke Pines, was saddled with the loss for the Tigers.

Gammel was 2-for-3, and Fagan was 2-for-4 to pace UF's eight-hit attack.

The two teams will square off in game two of the series today at 1 p.m.

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