Sophomore pitcher Kaylee Carlson (above) improved her season record to 16-1.
Auburn, Ala.--Auburn’s pitching continued to carry the team as the Tigers advanced into the championship round of their own NCAA softball regional with a 6-1 victory over South Carolina Upstate on Saturday.
The Tigers, who improved to 51-9, will play at 1:30 p.m. CDT on Sunday against Jacksonville State, which eliminated Oregon State and USC Upstate in losers bracket games on Saturday. Auburn will need to win one game to advance to the super regional it would be host for next week. If the Tigers lose the first game it will be a winner take all second game on Sunday at 4 p.m.
Sophomore Kaylee Carlson went the distance in the circle for the Tigers, allowing just three hits while striking out two and walking three.
“I felt like I threw okay--good enough to win,” Carlson said. “I wasn’t comfortable in the beginning.”
Probably a major reason for being less than comfortable was a strike zone from umpire Scott Thomas that confused both hitters and pitchers.
“It gets hard at first because you have to stick to what you throw,” Carlson said. "As Corey (pitching coach Corey Myers) tells me just keep throwing it again and eventually he will start calling it so that is what I tried to do. I didn’t start out so good with that. I was just trying to go out there and make him call my strikes.”
Emily Carosone takes a swing for the Tigers.
Senior second baseman Emily Carosone had one of her team’s four hits, a big one, that knocked in what proved to be the winning runs. “As a hitter we get three strikes so one bad call shouldn’t define our at-bat,” she said.
Carosone had praise for the pitching staff, which has come through with six consecutive good outings. “I really do believe we feed off our pitchers,” she said. “I think years before we were considered a hitting team and we are pitching team this year because of the depth we have with our pitchers.
“We have Kaylee and we have got Makayla (Martin) who can shut people out, and we have still got Marcy (Harper), Rachael (Walters) and Lexi (Davis) who have done great in the past.”
Corey Myers said the plan is to start either right-hander Martin or lefty Walters for the next game on Sunday.
Clint Myers said Corey Myers deserves the credit for the pitching staff’s success. “I don’t deal with the pitchers,” the head coach said. “They are Corey’s children.”
Clint Myers, who was not happy with how his team played in Friday’s win over Jacksonville State, said the Tigers improved on Saturday vs. USC-Upstate. “We did a little better job today,” he said. “We had outstanding pitching...I?thought the seventh inning was the best example of Auburn softball--double, move her over and score on a ground ball. We are moving in the right direction.”
The head coach pointed out that in this round of the NCAA Tournament last year at Auburn Regional it took a Haley Fagan home run to get past South Alabama 1-0. The Tigers then won the regional the following day and advanced to the super regional, which they won on the way to their first-ever Women's College World Series appearance.
Fagan contributed again on Saturday with her first hit of the season, a pinch-hit double in the seventh inning, as the Tigers scored a pair of insurance runs.
“I have been having good at-bats and I am seeing the ball really well right now,” said Fagan, who missed almost the entire season with a knee injury. “My name was called and I just wanted to do anything to help my team out...I got a good pitch and put a good swing on it.”
Fagan noted that it felt good to contribute. “Once I got to second (base) it felt like the weight was off my shoulders,” she said.
The Tigers missed a big opportunity in the first inning when Holly McKinnon walked the bases loaded with one out before being replaced by Lexi Shubert, who struck out Jade Rhodes and Madi Gipson to end the threat.
The Spartans had their own threat in the bottom of the first inning, but stranded runners on first and second base when Carlson struck out Amy Szymanowski.
Coach Clint Myers and the Tigers need one more win to be a super regional host next week.
Auburn took the lead on a pair of runs in the second inning as Carosone scorched a two-out, line drive double over the left fielder to score Whitney Jordan, who had walked, and Tiffany Howard, who reached on a fielder’s choice.
The Spartans answered with a run in the bottom of the second inning with a home run to left field by Abbie Millette to make the score 2-1.
Catcher Courtney Shea started Auburn’s two-run fourth inning with a single. Two-out walks to Howard and Carsone loaded the bases. Cooper and Carlee Wallace then walked to get easy RBI to make the score 4-1.
Pinch-hitter Anna Gibbs reached first base on a throwing error to start the seventh inning. Fagan’s double drove home the first run of the inning and am RBI groundout by Whitney Jordan made the final score 6-1.</p>