Merritt homers twice as Gators down Tigers

Published: Saturday, April 5, 2014 at 11:00 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, April 5, 2014 at 11:36 p.m.

Kirsti Merritt hit two home runs to help No. 6 Florida defeat No. 19 Auburn 7-6 and clinch the weekend SEC softball series at Pressly Stadium.

The win Saturday moves the Gators 33-8 overall and back to .500 in SEC play at 7-7.

Merritt gave the Gators the lead twice, breaking a 4-all tie in the fourth inning and then a 5-all tie in the fifth with solo home runs, increasing her season total to eight, including five in the last six games. Saturday was her third multi-homer game of the season and second in the last five games.

“I’m twisting my back foot,” Merritt said of the change on her approach at the plate. “That is keeping my hands connected and not making my hips fly open. It is really working for me.”

Stephanie Tofft’s three-run home run in the bottom of the first inning gave the Gators a big boost after Florida starting pitcher Delanie Gourley and the Gator defense started out shaky. Taylore Fuller dropped a routine fly ball to start the game. A single followed by a walk put the freshman pitcher in a bases-loaded, no-out situation. Gourley got out of it, though, with a force out at home, a strikeout and a pop out to second base.

“You want to talk about momentum,” said Florida head coach Tim Walton. “You don’t score three in the first inning, what happens next? Do they come out and score? You think ‘Here we go again. Are we gonna win? Are we gonna lose?’ That was a big, big hit.”

Taylor Schwarz’s RBI single three batters after Merritt’s second home run provided the Gators much-needed seventh run.

Lauren Haeger came in to relieve Gourley in the fourth inning to earn the win, while Hannah Rogers closed the door in the seventh to earn her first save of the season

Florida looks for their first SEC sweep of the season Sunday. First pitch is schedule for 1 p.m.

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