AUBURN, Ala. (seminoles.com) – A big two-run home run by Kelly Hensley and a stellar 3-for-4 performance from freshman Victoria East led the Florida State softball team past Auburn on Tuesday night, 6-3, at Jane B. Moore Field in Auburn, Ala.
The victory for the Seminoles (24-9) ends a four-game skid against the Tigers (20-11) that spanned in 2006, 2007, 2010 and 2011. Florida State improves to 13-7-1 all-time against Southeastern Conference foe Auburn.
“Tonight was a great way to start off an important week,” head coach Lonni Alameda said. “Victoria really stepped up at the plate with a few big hits, and Kelly Hensley’s home run gave us some much-needed breathing room. I thought Monica Perry was effective in the circle and Lacey came in in a pressure situation and was great for us.”
East recorded her second three-hit game of the season, hitting a mammoth three-run home run to go along with a single and double. The Pensacola, Fla. native plated three runs and crossed the plate twice to highlight the Seminoles’ eight-hit day offensively.
Hensley hit a substantial two-run home run in the top of the seventh to give Florida State a cushion after Auburn began charging back in the game. Redshirt sophomore Maddie O’Brien also produced a run-scoring extra base hit, while Kirstin Austin added two hits for the Noles.
Earning the win was redshirt senior pitcher Monica Perry (13-6), who threw 5.2 innings and allowed three runs on six hits with four strikeouts. Perry was nearly flawless through the first five innings, retired 11 Tigers in a row at one point before letting up a few runs in the sixth.
Sophomore pitcher Lacey Waldrop recorded her second save of the season after entering a 4-3 game with two outs in the sixth. Waldrop struck out three of her four batters faced to close the door on a once-tight ballgame.
East extended her hit streak to eight games when she led off the game with a bloop single to centerfield. East then stole her sixth bag of the season but could not be brought home to keep the game scoreless early.
Auburn had a chance to score in the bottom of the first when Emily Carosone singled with two outs, then managed to steal two bases on the same play after no one covered third base for the Seminoles. However, Perry managed to keep all three of her outs in the infield as Caitlin Schultze popped out to Courtney Senas at third base to finish the inning.
Auburn had a chance to put some runs on the scoreboard in the second inning, putting runners on first and second base with no outs. Auburn’s Baylee Stephens then popped out to Maddie O’Brien at shortstop, and after both runners reached scoring position Maris Medina hit into a double play on a squeeze bunt attempt that was caught by East at first base and resulted in a throw-out at third base.
East came through in a big way in the top of the third inning, crushing a low 2-1 offering over the Auburn Softball scoreboard in left field for a three-run home run, her second of the season. Florida State drew three walks in the inning to help put runners in scoring position, and O’Brien finished the frame with a sky-high run-scoring triple that nearly left the park in right field to make it 4-0.
The Tigers fought back in the bottom of the sixth. With one out, Branndi Melero lined a 2-2 pitch from Perry over the right center wall for a two-run home run, cutting the deficit to 4-2. Carosone then doubled, but Perry came back to strike out Schultze before Brooke Lathan hit an RBI double to left field to make it a one-run game. Waldrop entered the game with two outs in the inning and struck out Caitlin Jordan swinging.
Hensley provided perhaps the most important hit for the Seminoles in the top of the seventh. With Auburn fighting back and there being two outs in the frame, Hensley unloaded on a 2-1 inside pitch and recorded her team-leading 10th home run of the season on a two-run shot to left. The round-tripper gave Florida State a couple more insurance runs.
Hensley’s 10 home runs are already tied for sixth on the school’s single-season list with the season reaching just over the halfway point.
Waldrop earned her second save of the season in the bottom of the seventh, getting two strikeouts and a groundout to finish the game.
Florida State gets back into conference play as it hosts ACC rival North Carolina this weekend at JoAnne Graf Field. Both teams square off on Saturday, March 23 in a doubleheader that begins at 1 p.m. The first game of the twinbill will be streamed on ESPN3.com. The Seminoles and Tar Heels play in the final game of the series on Sunday at noon.