Myers Wins 1500th, Auburn Drops Series to Florida
photo: Zach Bland/Auburn athletics
It took eight days and three games, but Auburn head softball coach Clint Myers accomplished what few have done. He notched his 1,500th win, and he did it the hardest way possible. Myers’ club got him that milestone last weekend with a road win over Florida, the number-one team in college softball.
It wasn’t easy, and Auburn had to fight off a Gators sweep threat. In the end, Kaylee Carlson pitched a shutout, and Kendall Veach’s solo shot in the second proved to be the game winner.
Just how did the weekend go for the Tigers?
The series kicked off in a Saturday night prime-time matchup between the top-ranked Gators and the sixth-ranked Tigers. Florida benefited from a blown call at home plate in a bizarre sequence of events. Auburn catcher Carlee Wallace tagged Florida’s Ocasio short of home plate after a run-scoring infield single. The home plate umpire immediately called Ocasio out after the tag, but a protest by Florida coach Tim Walton caused the home plate umpire to consult with and ultimately defer to the 3rd base umpire. The latter ruled that Wallace juggled the ball after the tag, and a run was awarded the Gators. Replay clearly showed that Wallace had secured the ball, and the booth announcers all agree the call was blown.
After striking first, the Gators held the Tigers scoreless for three innings before Victoria Draper did what she does best: beating out infield hits. This time, the nine-hole hitter’s hustle scored 2nd baseman Casey McCrackin to cut the lead to one. In the fifth, designated hitter, Courtney Shea, doubled to score Haley Fagan, and McCrackin folllowed with a clutch bunt that scored speedy pinch runner Bree Fornis on the squeeze play, giving the Tigers the lead 3–2.
Auburn held that lead all the way to the last frame, and that’s where things went awry. A costly error by Haley Fagan with two outs put the Gators in position to tie the game with runners on first and third. Then the Tigers did something they haven’t done in the Myers era: made back-to-back errors.
On a fly ball hit to shallow center, Draper deferred to second baseman, Casey McCrakin, who was forced to make a very difficult catch. McCrackin was unable to catch the fly ball, which appeared to be routine for Draper. Both
Florida runners scored for a walk off win on an error. Carlson took her first loss of the season although she allowed only two earned runs.
The loss obviously hurt the Tigers, whose game two was one to forget. Auburn simply didn’t show up for game two, and Florida’s Barnhill notched an astounding sixteen strikeouts with only two hits allowed in a complete-game shutout. Auburn’s Wallace was the only Tiger not to strike out at least once, and the Tigers were trounced 7–0. Makayla Martin took the loss, and freshman Ashlee Swindle appeared in relief late in the game. Auburn’s uninspired play left the pitchers no chance.
On Monday evening, Carlson was back in the circle, and the Tigers looked motivated to avoid the first sweep of the Myers’ era. Carlson was absolutely brilliant, allowing just three hits in a shutout win that included four strikeouts. Though Auburn had an error, an ill-advised no-look toss by Veach after a brilliant diving grab at a hard grounder, the Tigers stiffened in the field. Auburn notched another double play, extending their NCAA lead in double plays.
In the circle, Florida’s Gourley pitched her own fantastic game, save for a single pitch that Kendall Veach blasted for her team-leading eighth home run. Like Carlson, Gourley allowed only three hits but picked up her second loss of the season, which was also Florida’s second loss.
Despite the milestone achieved by Myers, it wasn’t all celebration. Tempers flared immediately after the game when there was a clash between Auburn’s Haley Fagan and Florida’s head coach, Tim Walton.
While shaking hands and expressing sportsmanship, Fagan decided to forego the sign of sportsmanship and refused to high-five or even acknowledge the Florida coaching staff. This slight may have stemmed from the dismissal of two of Fagan’s sisters from the Florida program several years before. Though it was clear that Fagan had no intention of exchanging pleasantries with the Florida staff, Walton pressed the issue by pushing Fagan on her right shoulder. In response, Fagan pushed Walton back and a series of words were exchanged.
— Zach Taylor (@Best5Zach) March 28, 2017
The sudden turn of events certainly cheapened Myers’ milestone win. However, Walton issued an apology for his part in the incident Tuesday. Afterwards, Auburn AD Jay Jacobs said he had been reached by his counterpart at Florida, Scott Stricklin, and it was time to “move along.”
Auburn continues to struggle against Florida, which remains the only team the Tigers cannot consistently beat. In truth, while Auburn now has the talent and coaching, the winning pedigree just isn’t quite there, and it shows up in tough games. Last year it was senior Emily Carosone’s wild error in the finals. This series, it was multiple errors on fly balls.
Auburn is set to take on a good Georgia team in Athens this Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. The Saturday game is slated to be on ESPN. Make sure to follow me on Twitter as I live tweet in-game action @Best5Zach.