The No. 23 Auburn Tigers dropped two games before winning the series finale in Gainesville this weekend against the No. 18 Florida Gators.
Game one was a heartbreaker for Auburn, as they dropped the opener 3-2 in eight innings. The Tigers were down to their final out, before Icess Tresvik launched a solo home run to force the extra inning.
"It's a tough one to talk about,” said head coach Mickey Dean. “Our hitters battled. Our pitchers battled. We battled on defense late. When you're playing on the road, runs are hard to come by. We can't give runs away. We had an opportunity tonight."
Maddie Penta got the start in the circle and added 12 more strikeouts to her impressive season. It was Penta’s seventh game this season with double-digit strikeouts. Penta went seven innings on 133 pitches and gave up two earned in the loss.
Elizabeth Hightower started in the circle for Florida going seven innings giving up one earned run on four hits. Rylee Trlicek came in relief for the Gators, throwing a scoreless eighth inning to pick up her fourth win on the year.
In game two, the Gators got ahead early and took down Auburn by a score of 6-3.
“We played hard. Our defense played remarkable. We struggled in the circle. We had some opportunities on offense. That's all you can ask,” said Dean.
Florida started off the scoring in the first on a Charla Echols RBI single. Auburn would never see the lead the entire duration of the game, but the Tigers tied it up in the third inning off a Nelia Peralta solo-home run. The tie ball-game was short lived after Echols drove in two more runs for the Gators in the bottom half of the third.
Peralta wasn’t done launching the long ball after her first one, as she went deep again in the fifth inning. It was Peralta’s second multi-home run game of her career. Peralta drove in all three of the Tigers' runs.
“She's in the leadoff spot for a reason,” Dean said. “She's a student of the game. She's not the type of hitter that an opponent can throw the same pitcher to on back-to-back days. She as well as several of our hitters made great adjustments.”
Hightower started again in the circle for Florida, finishing with three earned runs on five hits in four innings of work. Trlicek came in relief for Hightower, just like in game one, and was just as efficient. Trlicek gave up just two hits in her three innings in the circle to record the save.
Annabelle Widra started in the circle for Auburn and threw three innings giving up three runs on six hits.
In game three, Auburn capitalized on a four-run first inning to cruise to a 7-0 victory to avoid the sweep in the swamp.
“I liked how we answered early,” said Dean. “That was the difference. I told our team and staff last night that if we score early, it's over. I didn't think that they'd have the fight that we had. They're a great team, but we did our job early.”
Denver Bryant brought in the first run on an RBI single to center. Bri Ellis immediately followed and hit one off the top of the left field wall that bounced over for a three-run shot.
“I don't do it for the home runs. I do it for my team,” Ellis said. “ I just want to put runs on the board for my team. I have to do my best at the plate. If it is a home run, it's a home run.”
The Tigers would not score again until the seventh inning when Abbey Smith bunted one back to the pitcher, which was thrown into right field bringing in Jessie Blaine. The Gators committed another error the next batter which brought Smith and Aubrie Lisenby around to push the lead to seven.
Penta took the circle for the Tigers again and completely dominated. Penta threw seven innings striking out ten allowing just four hits. Penta threw 112 pitches en route to her eighth double-digit strikeout game. Penta also crossed the 200 mark in strikeouts this season and now sits at 205 strikeouts.
“I feel like I pitched better than I did Thursday night,” said Penta. "I used my defense more, and they did a great job behind me. It made it a lot easier on myself.”
Samantha Bender started for Florida in the circle, but only lasted a third of an inning giving up four runs. Lexie Delbrey took over for the Gators and silenced the Tigers bats by not allowing a hit in her six and two thirds innings pitched.
Auburn looks to stay in the win column against Troy this Wednesday, before hosting No.11 LSU. The Gators host North Florida Wednesday, before the Georgia Bulldogs travel to Gainesville.