Auburn Softball Drops Series to Florida, Extends Loosing Streak to Three
Chardonnay Harris had 17 strikeouts against Florida in a 2-1 Auburn win over the weekend. (photo: Auburn media file)
#PoundTheStone has been the hashtag attached to Auburn softball’s social media posts throughout the season. Yet, the Tigers have done anything but that since entering conference play. The hitting has progressively deteriorated to the point that Auburn is almost completely unrecognizable at the plate. Along the way, Auburn’s record has dipped to 10–11 after losing three straight series. And, the Tigers haven’t won a series at home since the first SEC trio of games against Texas A&M back on March 15th.
To say the 2019 SEC schedule results thus far have been a disappointment would be putting it mildly. Although the Tigers won the series against Tennessee in Knoxville, they have dropped series to Kentucky and South Carolina. Two years ago that scenario would have been deemed unfathomable by a Clint Myers-led squad.
Even the series loss against Florida this weekend isn’t acceptable because this Florida squad is a far cry from the typical, perennial Top 10 Gator teams. The lone thing Florida has going for it is all-world pitcher Kelly Barnhill, who has been a stud pitcher for Florida for four years. The Gators aren’t the same at the plate or the field nor is Barnhill quite the same as she was because there is no relief pitcher or part-time starter to spell her.
However, she completely dominated Auburn over the weekend, despite the Tigers taking a win in game two. While only scoring three runs all weekend, two runs were enough to win Saturday’s game two after the Gators smoked Auburn 7–0 in game one. Barnhill was perfect in game-one’s no hitter. She gave up three free passes but tallied ten strikeouts. The Gator defense stood tall behind her, having no errors.
Ashlee Swindle got the game-one start, a role she assumed after Makayla Martin’s injury. She’s allowed at least four runs in those opening games and has given up seven runs in the last two games. Of course, the story is about Auburn’s bats, which remained ice-cold. There is nothing else that can be said other than Barnhill was hot, Auburn’s bats were not, and Florida made the most of its scoring opportunities.
The lone bright spot was game-two’s walk-off, 10 inning win. Chardonnay Harris went the distance, piling up 17 strikeouts. She allowed just one run and five hits, a stat which is simply astounding. Harris now has a 1.10 ERA, second only to Makayla Martin, whose postseason availability is looking more and more doubtful.
In game two, with the winning run on third base, Florida’s coaching staff elected to intentionally walk Kendall Veach to get to Casey McCrackin. The move backfired when McCrackin hit a deep sacrifice fly ball that scored pinch runner Makenna Dowell from third for a walk-off win.
However, the situation wasn’t without drama. Florida appealed that Veach, not Dowell, had left early (which she had) and had failed to tag up. The ball made its way to first base to double off Veach and provide the third out of the inning. Of course, the ruling favored Auburn as Dowell had scored well before the third out. Still, it was a serious base-coaching error, and one that should never have put the game in jeopardy.
Game three’s rubber match included yet another head-scratching call by second-year coach Mickey Dean. After Lexi Handley got the start, she performed as she’s done almost every time she’s seen the circle. She immediately walked the first hitter, air mailed a wild pitch, and walked two more before Dean put Swindle into the game. And, just as it has happened time and time again, the opposing offense took Swindle to the woodshed. This time with the bases loaded and a 1–1 count, Florida’s Roberts pounded the stone to center. Auburn was out of the game in the first inning, and Florida went on to take the series.
There are some troubling things afoot for Auburn softball. The Tigers are in serious jeopardy to fail to host a regional with only a series against Arkansas ahead, which is shocking. If that happens, Auburn will have failed for two straight years to host regional play while hosting super-regionals was the norm under Myers.
Obviously, pitching has been an issue for the Tigers. Teams have shelled Ashlee Swindle in game one of multiple series. Dean continues to go to Lexi Handley, whose control issues are mystifying for a college player. Meanwhile, Harris has been impressive yet unable to earn multiple appearances.
The Tigers close out the regular season in Fayetteville this weekend. First pitch will be at 6:00 p.m. on the Auburn Sports Radio Network with ESPNU broadcasting Saturday’s 5:00 p.m. game.