Tigers break conference skid, take out Georgia 8-1

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*Courtesy Auburn Media Relations*

ATHENS, Ga. - The No. 23 Auburn softball team broke a nine-game conference losing streak Sunday afternoon in Athens, Ga., defeating No. 15 Georgia, 8-1, to win its seventh conference game of the season and fend off its third-straight conference sweep. The win was Auburn's first over the Bulldogs since the 2012 season and gives it an overall record of 33-14-1.

Junior Branndi Melero went 2-for-3 in the game with one run scored and two RBI, making her the new Auburn single-season RBI record-holder with 66 RBI in one season. Melero passes Holly Currie on the all-time list, who had 65 RBI in the 2005 season for the Tigers.

As for the rest of the offense, three other players tallied multi-hit games as part of a 14-hit output by the Orange and Blue. Freshman Madi Gipson joined Melero with two hits in the game, while sophomore Austyn West completed a 3-for-4 game with one RBI off a solo home run. The three-hit game for West sets a new career-high, her last high of two coming against Savannah State earlier this season.

Sophomore Tiffany Howard had a perfect day at the plate, going 4-for-4 on four singles and scoring once. The four-hit outing for Howard sets a new career-high with her last high total coming exactly one year ago vs. South Carolina (April 20, 2013).

Sophomore pitcher Lexi Davis threw her 19th complete game of the season, ninth in Southeastern Conference play, going seven strong and giving up only four hits with the one earned run and two strike outs. The win ups Davis' record to 17-9 for the year and was her fifth win in conference play.

Auburn scored first in Sunday's game, getting two runs on an RBI single from redshirt junior Morgan Estell. The Tigers got their first three batters of the game on base to load the bases for Estell, who delivered for her 33rd and 34th RBI of the season. The lead would be one Auburn didn't relinquish for the remainder of the game.

Davis kept Georgia scoreless through the second inning after Auburn couldn't add to its lead in the top half of the frame. In the top of the third, the Orange and Blue got another score, tallying three hits and capitalizing on two Georgia errors in left field. With the pinch runner, Jordan Rocker, on second, sophomore Kelsey Bogaards came through with her only RBI of the game to make it 3-0 Auburn after three.

Auburn went on to score once in each of the next two innings, both off the bat of Melero. In the fourth, Melero tattooed her 12th home run of the year, a solo home run down the right field line that just curved around the foul pole, giving Auburn a big 4-0 lead.

In the fifth, it was Melero, again, who notched her record-breaking RBI on a sacrifice fly, scoring Howard, who had reached base by her third single of the game. After the Carosone and Cooper walks to load the bases, Melero hit a deep fly ball to left-center field, deep enough to score the run and push the lead to 5-0.

Georgia did get one run back in the bottom half of the fifth to make it 5-1, b the Orange and Blue added three more in the top of the sixth as junior McKenzie Kilpatrick walked to lead off the frame. In the next at-bat, Gipson had her turn with the home run ball, hitting her fourth of the year to score Kilpatrick for the two RBI and the 7-1 advantage.

West made it back-to-back home runs with her fourth home run of the year as well for the final tally of 8-1. It marked the third time this season that Auburn has hit back-to-back home runs in one game, the last coming from Melero and freshman Kasey Cooper, who hit back-to-back jacks against IPFW on March 14 of this season.

The Tigers return to the field on Wednesday, April 23 to face Alabama State in its final non-conference game of the 2014 season. The game will also be this season's pink game in Auburn softball's effort to raise breast cancer awareness. First pitch is slated for 6 p.m. at Jane B. Moore Field.

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