Auburn, Ala. -- The No. 4 Auburn Tigers started off their 2016 softball season about as well as a team can. The Tigers scored seven runs on five hits in the first inning and never looked back, defeating the Appalachian State Mountaineers 9-0 in five innings thanks in large part to a combined no-hitter from pitchers Marcy Harper and Rachel Walters.
With over 1,700 people in attendance to see Auburn begin their year with dreams of building off of last campaign’s Women’s College World Series appearance and leaving Oklahoma City with the title this time around, the Tigers blitzed the visiting Mountaineers with solid early hitting, patience at the plate and alert base running. The Tigers would tack on two more runs in the bottom of the third inning with senior Emily Carosone and freshman Hope Smith crossing the plate.
“I’m happy after any win,” said Coach Clint Myers after being asked if he was pleased with how the Tigers won. “It was a good win, but we’ve got to loosen up a little bit. There are some things that we did well but we still need to improve. I’m smiling after a 9-0 win with a no-hitter. That’s pretty easy coaching there.”
Starting and pitching the first four innings, Harper claimed the win four strikeouts on the night and allowing just one baserunner to reach on a walk. She put twelve of the thirteen batters she faced down with App State’s leadoff hitter being the only player to reach base against Harper after an eleven pitch at-bat. It was a good start to the season for the senior.
“I felt pretty good,” Harper said. “I was a little anxious and a little overaggressive so my first couple of innings were a little ‘Bleh,’ but I fixed it in the third and fourth (innings). I’m kind of a perfectionist so when everything’s not spot on I don’t feel very good.”
Whitney Jordan had a hot start to the 2016 season with a triple in her first at-bat
Pitching was a much different story for Appalachian State. During the seven run first inning which saw twelve Tigers bat, the Mountaineers were forced into a pitching change. Starter Katherine Johnson only lasted one-third of an inning before being pulled. She gave up seven runs on four hits and three walks. App State reliever Vanessa Ciocatto would pitch the rest of the game for the visiting team. She had control issues as well giving up seven walks.
“Our philosophy is to stay in tune to our pitch and know our zone and the umpire’s zone,” Myers noted when asked about the Tigers not forcing themselves too much at the plate. “We still lifted a little bit. They were a little anxious. We didn’t barrel the ball as well as we’ve done in the spring so far.”
Many of the Auburn players had solid stat lines including Carosone going 2-2, scoring two runs and walking once and junior Kasey Cooper going 1-2 with a triple, and RBI and a walk. With last year’s starting shortstop Haley Fagan still recovering from a torn ACL, sophomore Whitney Jordan stepped up to fill her spot. With the Tigers having an early 3-0 lead with one out in the first inning and runners at second and third Jordan ripped a triple down the third base line that capped off Auburn’s hot start to the game and the season. It meant a lot for the Athens, Ala. native.
"It went really well,” said Jordan of the game and the team’s performance. “We all swung the bat really well. Personally, getting a hit my first at-bat helped calm my nerves a little bit because I was a little anxious. That definitely helped. I think we looked really good today.”
Auburn will look to continue its season in strong fashion when the Tigers play host to the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers on Friday in their first game of the Plainsman Invitational. First pitch is set for 5:30 p.m. CST.