Tigers Outlast Carolina In SEC Tournament

The Auburn softball team won its SEC Tournament opener with a 7-5 victory.

Columbia, S.C.--Auburn jumped to a 4-0 lead, survived a comeback by host South Carolina and advanced to the second round of the single-elimination SEC Women's Softball Tournament on Wednesday night.

The Tigers used a dozen hits to improve their record to 39-16-1 and advance to a round two game against the tournament's top seed, Alabama. In their only matchup this season Auburn defeated the Tide 6-2 in Montgomery. The contest is scheduled to start at 5:30 p.m. CDT on Thursday.

A key to the victory vs. South Carolina was two scoreless innings of relief pitching by Marcy Harper to earn the save after starter Lexi Davis had control problems with five bases on balls.

The Tigers and Gamecocks split their season series. South Carolina won two of three from Auburn this past weekend.

"We had two pretty even teams," Auburn coach Clint Myers said. " It was pretty nice. We knew what they were going to do and they knew what we were going to do.

"For a first game, it was better to face them than one of the three teams we never played all season," he added. "The people here have been phenomenal so we stayed two days and relaxed and had good workout days. We played well tonight.

The game couldn't have started any better for Myers as Auburn's leadoff hitter, Emily Carosone, swang at the first pitch and homered to left center field.

"We have seen that pitcher so many times," Carosone said. "I was just waiting for it. I was ready. I wanted to start it off with a good hit."

The Tigers then doubled their lead to 2-0 with back-to-back doubles with two outs by Morgan Estell and Jade Rhodes.

In the top of the second inning with one out, Kelsey Bogards reached base with a bunt single between the pitcher and first baseman. Bogards moved to second base on an infield hit by No. 9 batter, Tiffany Howard.

The runners then moved to second and third on a groundout by Carosone to first base. Kasey Cooper grounded out to second base to end the threat.

In the third inning Branndi Melero opened the frame with a line drive single to center field. She moved into scoring position with no outs on a stolen base.

After a lineout to the shortstop by Estell, Rhodes grounded out to shortstop moving Melero to third base, but she was stranded there

The Tigers added to their advantage with a leadoff home run by catcher Austyn West in the fourth inning to make the score 3-0, prompting a pitching change for the Gamecocks.

Kelsey Bogaards greeted reliever Nickie Blue with a double to right center field. Howard then struck out for the first out of the inning before Carosone grounded out to move Bogards to third base. The Gamecocks avoided further trouble when Melero hit a line drive out to right field.

In the bottom of the fourth the Gamecocks got a leadoff walk, a stolen base and a double to cut the lead to 4-1 with one out. A two-run homer by Victoria Williams cut the lead to 4-3.

Davis then walked the tying run on base, but the Tigers turned a double play on a ground ball to Cooper to end the inning.

In the fifth inning Rhodes reached base on a single between the shortstop and third baseman. After a strikeout by Gipson the Tigers got a second runner on base when Gipson drew a base on balls, but Bogards hit a soft liner for out three.

The Gamecocks tied the game with a solo home run in the fifth inning by Ashlyn Masters.

In the top of the sixth inning Auburn's number nine hitter, Howard, walked and moved to second on a single to left by Carosone. Cooper then moved the runners to second and third with a sacrifice bunt.

Melero's soft roller to shortstop was thrown away, scoring two runs and allowing the right fielder to move to second base.

Melero advanced to third base on a groundout from Estell and was stranded there with a groundout by Rhodes to end the inning with the Tigers on top 6-4.

The Gamecocks cut the lead to a single run as Oliva Lawrence smacked a leadoff home run, prompting a call to the bullpen for Harper and she took control of the game.

Gipson opened the top of the seventh with a single to right field for the Tigers. Ashley Leon was brought in as a pinch-runner. The Gamecocks then brought starting pitcher Julie Sarratt back to the mound.

West, who was unable to put down a sacrifice bunt, made the first out of the inning on a foul ball to left field. Bogards then moved Leon to second base with a line drive single to left field.

The Tigers then brought in Jenna Abbott to pinch-hit for Howard. She was thrown out on a soft grounder to shortstop, moving the runners to second and third for Carosone, who was hit by a pitch to load the bases.

Ashley Leon scores for the Tigers on a passed ball.

With Cooper at the plate Leon raced home to score on a wild pitch into the dirt, putting the Tigers up 7-5. A strikeout ended the threat with two runners in scoring position.

Harper then took care of business to give Myers his first SEC Tournament victory as Auburn's coach.

"With this team I always know we are going to come back and fight," said Bogaards, who led the Tigers with three hits. " I had confidence in our offense and I knew we were going to have our pitchers' backs the whole time no matter what."

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