Photo by Jason Caldwell

Auburn's Hitters Can't Handle Arizona's Hot Pitcher In NCAA Softball Regional

Auburn has to rally on Sunday to keep the season going and earn a trip to the College Softball World Series.

Danielle O'Toole (above) led the Wildcats to a 5-3 victory on Saturday.

Auburn, Ala.--The Auburn softball Tigers came into their super regional vs. Arizona with momentum from winning their SEC and regional championships without a loss, but on Saturday a strong pitching performance changed that.

Danielle O’Toole, a redshirt junior from Upland, Calif., would not be denied. She pitched a complete game allowing three runs (two unearned) on two hits, two walks and five strikeouts.

According to Auburn first baseman Jade Rhodes, it came down to O’Toole simply executing better than the Tiger hitters.

“We practiced all week for her and we prepared,” said Rhodes when asked if facing the lefty O’Toole was a struggle. “I think it was just getting away from our plan. We just got out of our little comfort zone by not sticking to the plan and staying with one side of the plate.”

Rhodes was one of the few Auburn batters who got to the transfer from San Diego State during the game. In the bottom of the seventh with the Wildcats leading 5-2, Rhodes hit a line drive homer over the right-center field fence on the first pitch of her at-bat to bring the score within two runs. O’Toole would shut down the side after that.

Photography: Johnny Lawrence

Jade Rhodes celebrates after seeing her seventh inning at-bat result in a home run.

Prior to the late dinger the Tigers were for the majority of the game handled by O’Toole with her lone trouble spot coming in the bottom of the third when she gave up a double to right field by Auburn’s right fielder Madi Gipson, a walk to shortstop Whitney Jordan and a two run-scoring error hit by left fielder Tiffany Howard. Besides that O’Toole was practically flawless.

“I think (it was) controlling the count and relying on my defense to get the groundouts and the pop-outs that I needed,” said O’Toole after she was asked why she was so successful against Auburn’s hitters.

With the win O’Toole improved her win/loss record to 26-10 with a 2.00 ERA. Of the 97 total pitches she threw 67 were strikes. Included in those totals was an intentional walk to Tiger third baseman and SEC Player of the Year Kasey Cooper. She has now won her last eight consecutive starts. Arizona Coach Mike Candrea also noted that it isn’t just her pitching that makes O’Toole elite in the circle.

“The thing that I think sometimes gets overlooked about her is her ability to play defense,” said Candrea. “She made two really good plays tonight that I would say most pitchers aren’t going to make. Those are things that become very crucial. She’s a complete player. Even though she doesn’t hit I believe she takes a lot of pride in her ability to pitch and play defense.

Game two of the super regional will begin at 1 p.m. CDT on Sunday with the Tigers needing to win back-to-back games. It is safe to assume that if the Wildcats get in any pitching trouble O’Toole will find herself back on the mound.

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