Auburn, Ala.--Lexi Davis pitched 3 1/3 innings of hitless relief and picked up the victory as Auburn advanced into the winner’s bracket of the NCAA Softball Auburn Regional with a 4-1 win over Tennessee Tech.
Auburn managed just four hits in a game delayed by more than two hours by rain and lightning, but the Tigers overcame a solo home run by the Ohio Valley Conference champions to improve their record to 50-9.
With the victory on Friday night the Tigers will take on No. 2 regional seed South Alabama at noon on Saturday at Jane B. Moore Field. The Jaguars, the Sun Belt Conference tournament champion, took an 11-1 run-rule victory over No. 3 UT-Chattanooga in the Friday afternoon game.
“I thought Rachael (Walters) and Lexi did an outstanding job of pitching,” said Auburn coach Clint Myers, who picked up his 1,000th career win as a college softball coach.
The coach he expects the Tigers will go with another pitcher, junior Marcy Harper, in Saturday's game vs. South Alabama.
“I thought we played good defense,” Myers added. “We are a better offensive team. We need to hit better. We have got to barrel the ball up. We left the zone a few times.
“The girl pitching (All-OVC sophomore Danielle Liberatore) did a great job of changing speeds and we weren’t able to handle that,” Myers said. “She gave us some good pitches at times and we didn’t square them up.”
Both teams finished the contest with four hits. Auburn helped its cause by walking just one batter, a point of emphasis for the Tigers late in the season.
Davis noted she felt like she threw the ball well. “My drop ball was working and the biggest thing for me was my off-speed and mixing it to my advantage,” she said.
The pitchers were in control until the third inning when Tech’s Kelly Kennedy led off the frame by launching a long home run over the left field fence off Walters to put the Golden Eagles ahead 1-0.
Walters then gave up two infield singles, but got out of the situation with no more damage.
Auburn got its first hit when All-SEC sophomore Kasey Cooper singled to right field to start the fourth inning. She reached second base on a walk to Branndi Melero, but was tagged out at second base as she was trying to get a big lead on a missed bunt attempt by freshman catcher Carlee Wallace.
A walk to Wallace moved Melero to second base where she scored on a double to right field by Morgan Estell to tie the game.
Estell said she did it by smacking a change-up over the head of the first baseman. “She basically threw the same sequence the (previous) at-bat so I was ready for it,” Auburn's team captain said.
The Tigers took the lead on a sacrifice fly to center field by Haley Fagan to score Victoria Draper, who was pinch-running for Wallace.
Tiffany Howard hits a ground ball for the Tigers.
Auburn added two more runs in the fifth inning. With one out Tiffany Howard reached base on a bunt single. She moved to second base on a walk to Carosone and scored on a line drive single to center field by Cooper.
After Melero grounded out to second base to move the runners to second and third the Tigers loaded the bases on a walk to Wallace. Estell then got her second RBI of the night when she walked to make the score 4-1. Liberatore struck out Fagan to end the inning.
After that Davis controlled the game as the Golden Eagles never threatened to score.
Tennessee Tech Head Coach Bonnie Bynum said, “I’m really proud of the way our kids fought. Obviously, we knew our backs were against the wall on the first pitch. We came out fighting. We knew we had nothing to lose. We kept playing our game plan. We came out aggressive swinging the bat. We put some good swings on the ball.”
Tennessee Tech will play Chattanooga at 2:30 p.m. CDT on Saturday. The loser is eliminated from the double-elimination tournament while the winner of the game will play the loser of the Auburn-South Alabama game at 5 p.m.
The winner of the Auburn-South Alabama game won't play again until Sunday at noon. If it wins the game it is the regional champ. If it loses a second game will be played at 2:30 p.m. on Sunday. Auburn Boxscore