Tigers In A Hole at NCAA Softball Regional

The Auburn softball team was upset by North Dakota State in its NCAA Regional opening game and will play Green Bay on Saturday.

Minneapolis, Minn.--If the Auburn Tigers are going to advance to the NCAA Women's Softball Tournament Super Regional round they will have to do it the hard way.

On Friday the Tigers were upset 5-2 by North Dakota State, pushing Auburn into the losers bracket of the four-team University of Minnesota Regional. That game will be played at 4 p.m. CDT on Saturday vs. Green Bay, a 10-1 loser to host Minnesota.

The difference in Friday's game was Auburn's inability to come through with a key hit in the bottom of the fifth inning with the contest tied at 2-2 and immediately following that, in the top of the sixth inning, the Bison delivered with a three-run homer, which was the game-winning blow.

Auburn dropped to 39-18-1 after losing to North Dakota State, a team they had beaten in a mercy rule contest during the regular season.

NDSU pitcher Krista Menke gave up just a pair of runs despite Auburn putting 13 runners on base, including eight who reached on walks.

Menke got out of a bases loaded jam in the fifth inning with no runs scored after the Tigers got a leadoff single from Emily Carosone followed by another single from Kasey Cooper.

After a fly out to left by Branndi Melero, Estell walked to load the bases, but the runners were stranded there by back-to-back popups by Jade Rhodes, who hit a home run distance shot that was foul, and by pinch-hitter Jenna Abbott.

"We had people in scoring position several times," Auburn coach Clint Myers said. "We simply couldn't get a ground ball. Do we have to do better at that? Do we have to do more than just talk about it? You bet. That's the plan for us tomorrow."

The Bison opened the sixth inning with a bunt single by Logan Moreland, who moved to second on a wild pitch. Moreland moved to third base on an infield single by Cheyenne Garcia putting runners on first and third with nobody out. Then with one out Amanda Grable homered to make the score 5-2.

Auburn went down one-two-three in the sixth inning and got the tying run to the plate in the seventh with a pair of two-out walks to Melero and Morgan Estell before Rhodes grounded out to end the contest.

The Tigers didn't take long to score a single run after pitcher Lexi Davis retired the side 1-2-3 in the top of the first inning.

Emily Carosone makes a play at shortstop for the Tigers.

After leadoff hitter Carosone walked for the Tigers she scored on a double by Cooper, who was thrown out trying to take third base on the play.

The Bison couldn't manage a hit the first two innings, but got to Davis for a run in the third with a batter reaching base on catcher's interference followed by a pair of singles to tie the score at 1-1.

Auburn regained the lead with a line drive home run to center field by Estell to lead off the bottom of the fourth inning. The Tigers managed to get Rhodes and McKenzie Kilpatrick on base with walks, but could not add to the lead that didn't last long.

Maritza Lopez-Portillo, leading off the fifth inning for the Bison, tied the game with a home run.

"We didn't play as well as we could and North Dakota State played well," Myers said. "They outplayed us and the result is what it is. We don't make any excuses. We have to play better in order to win."

By moving into the losers bracket must win two games on Saturday and two more on Sunday to win the regional.

"You just have to play a lot of softball… a lot of softball," Myers said of his team's situation. "You have to play two tomorrow and two on Sunday. The great thing about it is if you win two on Saturday and two on Sunday, you get to play the following weekend.

"It has been done many, many times," Myers said. "Can we do it? We have the capability to do it without question. I don't think there is a single person with Auburn across their chests that doesn't think we can do it. Now, we just have to do it. We can't just talk about it. There are no excuses, actions right now. That is what we are after."

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