Auburn, Ala.--The Auburn Tigers got off to a strong start in their home SEC softball series vs. the South Carolina Gamecocks with a combination of strong pitching and power at the plate.
After struggling to hit the previous weekend at Mississippi State, the Tigers ended the game early with a 10-0 run-rule victory called after five innings.
“I thought it was a good game,” Auburn coach Clint Myers said of the shutout. “(Pitcher) Kaylee Carlson is out there dealing. She stayed in command on both sides of the plate, she can go up when she needs to and her drop ball is outstanding. She got some strikeouts on that tonight.
“It was a well-pitched ball game,” Myers added. “She came here to pitch and she said she would show us. Right now she’s doing every bit of that.”
The Tigers improved to 28-4 (4-3 SEC) while the Gamecocks fell to 24-7 (2-5 SEC).
Carlson, a transfer from North Carolina, has indeed been dealing throughout the season. The win on Frida night took her record to 7-0 with a 1.08 ERA for the season. She gave up just four hits and struck out five.
Auburn scored in the bottom of the second inning after a throwing error by South Carolina starting pitcher Jessica Elliott. Right fielder Madi Gipson, who had reached second base after a double, was able to score after the pitcher lobbed the ball way over the first baseman’s head after a bunt attempt by center fielder Victoria Draper.
Elliott struggled with her control both on and off the mound all night going on to commit another throwing error to first base in the contest as well as walking four and hitting three batters.
One inning later the Tigers would put three more runs on the board through slightly less unconventional means. With one out third baseman Kasey Cooper would hit a sacrifice fly to right field scoring left fielder Tiffany Howard, and Auburn would take a 2-0 lead.
After an infield single, a walk and a hit batter loaded the bases, Gipson smashed her second double of the game with a line drive to right center field. Two runners scored before designated hitter Jenna Abbott was tagged out in a rundown between third base and home plate.
Gipson was replaced in right field by Morgan Podany after the third inning, but she still had a strong performance in a brief appearance going 2-2 with two RBIs on her two doubles.
“Two big doubles,” Myers said when asked about Gipson’s hitting performance. “(We’ve) got to put the ball in play. We know what we have to do and you guys see it, too. We’ve got to be able to put out a one through nine (lineup) that will give us a shot. Tonight we clearly did. Madi’s two doubles were great at-bats. (Elliott) was throwing 68-69 miles per hour, and Madi turned that around and put it into the gap in right-center.”
In the bottom of the fourth inning Auburn broke the game open with a grand slam by Cooper and a two-run homer by first baseman Jade Rhodes. The night had already been rough from a control standpoint for Elliott, but in this half inning Auburn made her pay for the strikes she did throw.
“Our teammates were excited,” said Rhodes on how the Tigers seized the momentum late in the contest. “This game was exciting and there was never a dull moment in the dugout. If Kasey goes deep I’m not really trying to follow behind her. I’m just trying to get it on the ground and if it goes over, it goes over.”
Cooper finished the night 1-1 after the grand slam with five RBIs. She also had a walk and a sacrifice fly. Rhodes and Cooper commented after the game on how the team can tell when Cooper is “feeling it” at the plate.
“We have a thing in the dugout where if (Cooper) gets her leg up there pretty high we are feeling it,” Rhodes pointed out. “That at-bat was really good for her.”
“(The dugout) has the saying, ‘Can I get a leg kick higher?’ They know my swing better than me,” said Cooper. “They said they all called it right when I walked out there.”
The Tigers finished the game with 10 runs on six hits with one error while the Gamecocks got no runs on four hits with two errors.
Auburn plays host to a doubleheader with South Carolina on Saturday with the first pitch scheduled at 2 p.m. CDT.