Madi Gipson (above) swings on a pitch she doubled to right field.
Auburn, Ala.--Lefty Danielle O’Toole came into Arizona’s super regional matchup vs. Auburn as a hot pitcher and that continued on Saturday as she allowed the Tigers just two hits in a 5-3 victory for the Wildcats.
Auburn must win at 1 p.m. on Sunday and then again at 4 p.m. to advance to softball’s College World Series. If the Tigers lose their season is done.
“Toole gave us the effort we needed on the mound and we got some big plays for her plus some timely hitting,” said Arizona coach Mike Candrea. “We kept them in check so it is a good start and we will move on to tomorrow.”
Auburn coach Clint Myers noted that he thought his team was ready to play better than it did. “We have had great practices all week long,” he said. “They were antsy. They couldn’t wait for the game to start.
“Chalk it up to whatever you will,” he added. “Maybe tomorrow they will play more to the plan we have outlined and they have outlined, and we will do a much better job.”
The Wildcats out-hit Auburn 9-2 as they put on a clinic of how to win with small ball. The Wildcats didn’t have an extra base hit and seldom hit the ball out of the infield, putting runners on base with high choppers, bunts and three walks by Auburn pitchers.
“Not much you can do on bunts,” AU pitching coach Corey Myers said. “These guys are really good with the short game. I think that is what got them here.
“We practice each week and we have a saying that bunts, popups, rundowns--they all need to be outs,” Myers added. “Tonight we just didn’t get enough outs on those bunt plays. I feel we need to do a better job.”
Tiffany Howard swings at pitch that brought home two of Auburn's three runs.
The pitching coach said the Tigers will need to make adjustments for Sunday to “try to force them to swing the bats with some power to try to beat us.”
The Wildcats scored first with a run in the top of the first inning as the first two hitters reached base on infield singles. A pair of groundouts pushed home a run.
Auburn responded with two runs in the bottom of the inning.
Madi Gipson doubled to the right field fence for Auburn’s first hit of the game. Whitney Jordan was then hit by a pitch. Both of the runners moved up on a sacrifice bunt by Victoria Draper.
Tiffany Howard then hit a ground ball up the middle that brought home two runs. It was ruled an error on the shortstop. Howard took second base on the throw to the plate and reached third on a throwing error.
A ground ball to the pitcher by Emily Carosone got Howard in a run-down between third and home. She evaded the tag long enough to allow Carosone to advance to second, but after an intentional walk to Kasey Cooper the threat ended when Carlee Wallace hit a fly ball out to right field leaving the Tigers on top 2-1.
Arizona used the short game to tie the contest in the fifth inning. A leadoff walk and a groundout put a runner on second base. A bunt put runners on the corners and a groundout to shortstop scored the run before Carlson pitched out of a jam to leave the score at 2-2.
Kaylee Carlson pitches for the Tigers on Saturday. The sophomore lost for just the second time this season to go with 15 wins.
Arizona chased Carlson from the game in the sixth inning. The Wildcats took the lead on a bases loaded hit by on a pitch thrown by Rachael Walters. A Walters error on a ground ball and a ground ball out to shortstop made the score 5-2.
Except for a line drive homer over the right center field by Jade Rhodes with one out in the seventh inning, O’Toole stayed in command the rest of the way to improve her record to 26-10
Senior first baseman Jade Rhodes hit her 17th home run of the season.
Game two is set for 1 p.m. CDT on Sunday and a third game, if necessary, is scheduled to start at 4 p.m. Arizona will be the "home" team for the 1 p.m. start.
Auburn dropped to 52-10 with the loss while Arizona improved to 40-19 and 4-0 in the NCAA Tournament.