Auburn sophomore Kaylee Carlson pitches in the finale on Sunday.
Auburn, Ala.--Needing to sweep a pair of games in the Auburn Softball Super Regional on Sunday, the Auburn Tigers were up to the task with strong pitching leading the charge.
Auburn defeated Arizona 4-1 in the first game on Sunday and 6-1 in game two to advance to the Women's College World Series, which will start on Thursday in Oklahoma City. The Tigers will face another Pac-12 team, UCLA, which swept a doubleheader on Sunday to earn a spot in the World Series. That game is set for 1:30 p.m. CDT with TV coverage on ESPN.
"These girls played an outstanding game," Auburn coach Clint Myers said, adding, "They played an outstanding two games. They beat a very, very good Arizona team. They did it because they stayed with the plan, they were pulling for each other, they went out and executed the things that needed to be executed. We got great pitching, we played good defense and we had timely hitting."
Auburn improved its record to 54-10 while Arizona finished the season at 40-21 after going 1-2 in the super regional with a 5-3 win in the opener on Friday evening.
Kasey Cooper signals her teammates in the third base dugout.
Last year the Tigers made their first appearance in the World Series where they won two games and lost two.
"We were ready," said second baseman Emily Carosone. "We came out with a full tank of gas--both games."
In both games on Sunday at Jane B. Moore field Auburn's starting pitchers went distance--Makayla Martin, in the opener, and Kaylee Carlson in the finale. Carlson, who was the loser in game one of the series, improved her season record to 17-3 while allowing just five hits. Martin, who gave up nine hits, improved to 14-3.
In game two the Tigers struck for two first inning runs.
Tiffany Howard reached base when she was hit by a pitch and moved to second on a wild pitch. Kasey Cooper then followed with a single over the shortstop’s head that scored Howard. Cooper moved to second on the throw to the plate and to third on a passed ball.
Carosone reached based when she was hit by a pitch. With runners on first and third, Carlee Wallace’s fly out to right field scored the second run.
Carosone was erased from base when she was called for leaving first too early as the Tigers had to settle for a pair of runs.
The Tigers doubled their lead in the fourth inning as Cooper reached on a single and moved to third on a double by Carosone.
Cooper then scored on a ground ball by Carlee Wallace to third base. There was a bad throw to the plate and Carosone motored home from second base on the play to make the score 4-0.
The Tigers made it 5-0 when Haley Fagan smacked a home run over the left field fence in the fifth inning. It was the first home run for the junior, who missed most of the season recovering from knee surgery.
Asked about her home run, Fagan said, “Right before that, we were in the dugout, and I was like ‘it’s funny that Tiffany Howard has more home runs than me.' Then after I hit it I was like, ‘Tiff, only one more.' It felt really good.”
The Wildcats managed a run in the top of the sixth inning on three hits, but the Tigers scored one of their own in the bottom of the inning to make the score 6-1.
Carosone hit a ground ball single to score Howard, who had reached base on a walk.
Kaylee Carlson pitched a complete game in the clincher on Sunday
Freshman Martin got the job done in the circle for the Tigers in game one, allowing just a single run.
The Wildcats took advantage of their second inning leadoff batter reaching base after being hit by a pitch. Nancy Bowling moved to second base on a groundout and with two outs scored on a double to left center field from Alexis Dotson.
The score remained 1-0 until the top of the fourth inning when the Tigers rallied to score four times.
Carosone started inning by singling to right field and then reaching second base on interference as she collided with the first baseman.
Carlee Wallace then walked and was pinch-run for by Bree Fornis.
After Jade Rhodes popped up a bunt attempt that was caught for out one, Haley Fagan came through with her second hit of the season, a double over the center fielder’s head, to put the Tigers on top 2-1.
Madi Gipson’s single to right field put runners on the corners for Whitney Jordan, who faced relief pitcher Taylor McQuillin after Danielle O’Toole, the game one winning pitcher on Saturday, was pulled after going 3 1/3 innings and throwing 58 pitches. Jordan was hit by a Quillin pitch to load the bases.
Pinch-hitting for Victoria Draper, Jenna Abbott popped up to shallow left field. However, Tiffany Howard laced a line drive single to center field to score two more and that was all the Tigers needed as they took a 4-1 victory.
Tiffany Howard slides into second base in the first game on Sunday
Arizona stranded one runner on base in the fourth and seventh innings and two in the fifth and sixth, but Martin was able to take care of business throwing 97 pitches for the complete game as she improved to 14-3.
Myers had praise for the fans who packed the park for the regional and super regional games. "They never left--they supported us the entire way. They are very, very special people and I want to say thanks."
Myers said now that the Tigers have qualified for Oklahoma City that his team has a chance to do very well there. "They just continue along the lines they are currently doing," he said. "It could be a very, very good World Series for us."
Carosone said that she believes the Tigers have a team that "can go all the way" this season and told her teammates that after losing the super regional opener on Friday. "This team is dominating," the senior said. "Since we have everything--we have the pitching, we have the hitting, we have the defense--there was no reason why we shouldn't go to Oklahoma City.
Arizona coach Mike Candrea said that Auburn made adjustments to play better on Sunday than they Tigers did on Saturday.
“They got on the plate, and took a couple of pitches on their elbows, which--I want to see that," he said. "Those were some questionable calls, but other than that it was a cat and mouse game and always will be. They hit some pitches on the screws that they didn’t on Friday.
"Our short game was okay, but not great today," he said. "They made some plays that they didn’t make on Friday and that’s what the game is all about. You look at the line score and you’re looking at one run on nine hits --we spread them out pretty good, and they had six runs on five hits so it’s not how many, it’s when and that’s kind of part of the game, and we were on the short end today.”