OKLAHOMA CITY – Nicole DeWitt’s walk-off single in the ninth capped off a thrilling semifinal win for No.1 Florida over No. 4 Auburn, 3-2, and sent the defending champions back to WCWS Championship series on Sunday afternoon ASA Hall of Fame Stadium.
Justine McLean scooted home with the winning run after reaching on a fielder’s choice and moving to second on a wild pitch. With two outs, DeWitt blooped a single into shallow left and McLean just beat the throw home for the Gators (58-6).
Box | Florida Press Quotes | Auburn Press Quotes
Florida will face either Michigan or LSU in the championship series, which starts tomorrow, June 1 at 8:00 ET. For the Tigers (56-11), their season comes to an end after a thrilling 24 hours, which saw them play 26 innings of softball. Auburn, making its first appearance at the WCWS, won two games yesterday and push the defending champions to the limit.
The game was highlighted by several outstanding defensive plays. Florida centerfielder Kirsti Merritt gunned down not one, but two Auburn (56-11) runners at the plate in the early innings, which in the end proved to be two very important plays.
The first kept the game scoreless in the second inning. Two innings late,r and after Auburn had just taken the lead, she made a strong throw home and prevented what looked to be another run-scoring single for the Tigers.
In all, Auburn recorded 11 hits and generated 16 base runners off of Lauren Haeger, but after the fourth could not get the big hit and stranded 14. Haeger grinded out the complete-game win, getting the crucial outs when she needed them.
The USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year scattered 11 hits, walked four, struck out six and hit a batter to improve to 31-1. McLean scored the first and last runs for the Gators as UF registered just five hits.
Auburn’s Lexi Davis put forth a gutsy effort for the Tigers to keep them in until the end. She allowed just four hits over 7.1 innings, struck out one and walked eight, while her defense made several clutch plays throughout the contest.
An inning before Florida’s walkoff, it looked like it the Gators would not need the ninth, but senior Morgan Estell gunned down Florida’s Francesca Martinez, attempting to score the winning run on sac fly. Martinez made a nice slide, but freshman catcher Carlee Wallace was able to tag her on the helmet before the hand got down. It was third double play of the game and the 11th of the postseason for the Tigers.
Estell, Wallace and Tiffany Howard each had two hits, while senior Branndi Melero knocked in both runs for Auburn.
McLean scampered home with the game’s first run on a wild pitch. The aggressive attempt with the ball not far from home plate put the Gators up 1-0 in the bottom of the third.
Melero came through for the Tigers in the top of the fourth with a two-out, two-run single for a 2-1 advantage. Before the clutch hit, Auburn had left six runners on base over the first three innings. It also marked the first time Florida has trailed this postseason.
Taylore Fuller (pictured) did not let her team’s deficit last long. The junior lined a 3-2 pitch just over the fence in left to knot the score at 2-2 in the fourth. Both teams had opportunities, but clutch pitching a stellar defense was at a premium the rest of the game.
-- Image courtesy of @sarahcphipps