Auburn softball sets up for regional final with Minnesota
From the Auburn University Athletics Department:
MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. – Auburn softball needed to win two games to stay alive in the NCAA Minneapolis Regional Saturday and got exactly that, winning its first game of the day over Green Bay, 9-1 in five innings, and then battling North Dakota State scoreless into the seventh inning until pulling out the 1-0 victory.
Freshman Kasey Cooper had a big day at the plate, hitting the game-winner RBI single in the top of the seventh for her only hit of the game. Earlier in the day, Cooper went 2-for-3 against the Phoenix, hitting her 18th home run of the year to break the Auburn single-season record.
Sophomore Lexi Davis got the start in both contests, but it was her performance against the Bison that benefitted Auburn the most. Davis pitched the full seven inning, scattering four hits and only allowing one walk. In the final three innings, Davis struck out the final batter in the frame, stranding runners in scoring position each time.
It was Davis' 21st win of the year and avenged Friday's loss to the same Bison team that had to go 10 innings with Minnesota earlier in the day.
The wins eliminate both Green Bay and North Dakota State in the double-elimination format and advances Auburn into the regional final where it will need to beat host-school Minnesota twice to advance to the NCAA Super Regionals. Sunday's first game is slated for a 1:30 p.m. first pitch.
In Saturday's nightcap, Davis and North Dakota State's Krista Menke battled each other pitch for pitch to a scoreless draw for six innings. Neither the Bison nor the Tigers could get any sort of a rally going as both teams also left multiple runners on base.
In the top of the seventh inning, the Tigers got a great lead-off double from sophomore Tiffany Howard, who laced a full count pitch into the left-center field gap to give Auburn a runner in scoring position with nobody out.
The Tigers got exactly what it needed in the next at-bat as sophomore Emily Carosone laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt to advance Howard up 60 feet. From there, Cooper took over on the heroics.
On the first pitch the freshman saw, Cooper went the opposite way through the left side to easily score Howard from third and score the game's first run. The run turned out to be the game winner as the Tigers won two games in an NCAA Regional for the first time since 2006.
Auburn only managed six hits in the game against NDSU with catcher Austyn West coming through with a 2-for-2 performance.
Earlier in the day, Auburn took care of business quickly with Green Bay, scoring six runs in the first two innings and then three more in the fourth to set up the run-rule opportunity in the fifth.
The three-run fourth was the same inning that Cooper hit her record-breaking home run. She finished the first game of the day 2-for-3 with four RBI to go a combined 3-for-7 with one run scored and five RBI.
The Tigers got a joint pitching performance by not only Davis, but senior Hilary Mavromat and freshman Jenna Abbott. After Davis gave up the home run to Green Bay in the second inning, Mavromat and Abbott shut down the Phoenix offense in their first appearances of the regional.
Saturday's two wins sets up a possible two-game day Sunday against No. 14 Minnesota. Auburn will need to beat the Golden Gophers twice to reach the NCAA Super Regionals. Sunday's first game is slated for 1:30 p.m. and will be televised on the Big Ten Network.
Brit Bowen will still have the radio call on AuburnTigers.com and locally on WEGL 91.1. Live stats can continue to be found on AuburnTigers.com as well.