Tigers Miss Trip to Softball Super Regional

Minnesota's comeback ruined Auburn's bid to advance to the NCAA Softball Tournament Super Regional round.

Minneapolis--Auburn rallied out of the losers bracket with three do-or-die victories, but came up short 8-6 to the host Gophers in the final game of the University of Minnesota NCAA Softball Regional on Sunday.

After a dramatic walk-off victory in extra innings vs. Minnesota in the first game on Sunday, the Tigers led 6-3in game two, but Auburn sophomore Lexi Davis hit the wall after pitching her fifth game of the weekend.

With Auburn's other starting pitcher, Marcy Harper, unable to play in the regional due to an injury, a tired Davis lost her edge in the closing innings of game two allowing Minnesota to rally for the win.

The big blow was a three-run homer in the sixth inning that erased a 6-5 Auburn lead.

The Tigers finished the season with a 42-19-1 record under first-year head coach Clint Myers. Minnesota, the Big 10 Tournament champion, improved to 44-10 heading into the Super Regional round.

"Our first year we had 42 wins and were playing in a championship game with the winner going to a Super Regional," Myers said. "That is the first time that has happened in Auburn's history. We fell a little short so what we have learned this year and that the disappointment that we are currently feeling, these ladies are going to express those feelings to our team next year. Because nobody wants to feel that until the very end and if you are fortunate enough you may not even have to feel that.

"Again, I am extremely proud of the ladies that we have only had since August," the coach added. "They did a tremendous job. I am sorry that the seniors did not get to play one more weekend and we will be back."

In game two the Gophers took the lead with a single run in the bottom of the first inning with a walk and two singles.

The Tigers answered with two runs in the top of the second inning. Morgan Estell started the rally with a leadoff single and Jenna Abbott walked.

On a sacrifice bunt attempt by Jade Rhodes the Gophers forced out the lead runner at third base. A groundout by Austyn West moved the runners to second and third base where they scored on a single by pinch-hitter Madi Gipson.

After a walk to Tiffany Howard, leadoff hitter Emily Carosone loaded the bases with an infield single. Kasey Cooper then hit a drive to deep center field, but the ball was caught on the warning track to end the threat.

Auburn's lead didn't last long as the Gophers scored a pair of runs in the bottom of the second inning on a single, a double and an error by first baseman Jade Rhodes.

The Tigers regained the lead in the third inning on a pinch-hit, grandslam home run by McKenzie Kilpatrick to make the lead 6-3. However, after that Minnesota's third pitcher of the game, left-handed reliever Nikki Anderson, allowed the Tigers no runs and just two hits in 32/3 innings.

Minnesota cut Auburn's lead to 6-5 with a pair of runs in the fourth inning and added three in the sixth with a home run by Sam Macken to end the marathon pitching performance by Davis.

Hilary Mavromat allowed a hit in relief, but prevented further damage. However, Auburn couldn't score in the seventh inning to end the season.

"The legacy of Auburn softball began here in Minneapolis," Myers said. "We are going to be a force to be reckoned with in the future. There is no reason, none whatsoever, that any of those ladies should have their heads down and not be proud of what they accomplished because we are so proud of what they did.

"None of the coaches fielded a ground ball, we didn't take one swing this year," Myers said. "They did it all. They put in the time and effort and believe me, it is a lot different than what they were used to. They went out and did their business. They wanted it."

The first game ended in dramatic fashion with two outs in the bottom of the eighth inning when pinch-hitter Abbott drilled a home run over the center field fence to give the Tigers a walk-off victory.

The Tigers threatened in the bottom of the first inning when Cooper drew a walk with one out and Branndi Melero followed with a single, but the Tigers couldn't drive the runners home.

Cooper's second at-bat was also a walk and this one led to the first run of the game. Melero's double to left center field scored Cooper, who slid around the tag attempt at the plate.

Melero, who advanced to third base on the throw, scored from there when Estell scorched a double to left center field to make the score 2-0.

The Tigers added a single run in the fifth inning when Cooper singled up the middle with one out and advanced to second on a wild pitch. She moved to third base on a single to left field by Estell and then scored on a pinch-hit single to right by Anna Gibbs.

Davis was cruising until the sixth inning when the home team tied the game with three runs with two outs after the Tigers looked to have gotten a third out, but an illegal pitch call gave Minnesota's Kaitlyn Richardson a second chance at the plate and she doubled home a run. Then Sara Groenwagen homered to left field to tie the contest.

Groenwagen, who was charged with the loss, pitched the final 2 2/3 innings for the Gophers.

Game One Box Score

Game Two Box Score

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