Photography: Johnny Lawrence

Walk-Off Win Over FSU Puts the Auburn Softball Tigers Into College World Series Final Series

A run in the eighth inning gave the Tigers a spot in the College Softball World Series championship round vs. the Oklahoma Sooners.

Freshman Morgan Podany, a pinch-runner for Madi Gipson, slides into home with the winning run.

Oklahoma City--After losing a three-run lead in the sixth inning, Auburn advanced to the finals of the College Softball World Series with a walk-off 8-7 victory over FSU on Sunday night. The Tigers will take on the Oklahoma Sooners on Monday at 7 p.m. CDT.

A head-first slide by pinch-runner Morgan Podany on a ground ball to third base by Whitney Jordan gave the Tigers a school-record 57th victory and achieved the team’s goal of “three more days,” which means a spot in the finals. The Tigers will play Oklahoma in a best two-out-of-three series.

"Seeing that we are playing three more days is pretty awesome," said senior first baseman Jade Rhodes. Auburn's next game will be against an Oklahoma team that defeated LSU 7-3 on Monday night for its 30th consecutive victory.

Gipson opened the eighth inning with a hard-hit single to left field, which was misplayed allowing her to slide safely into third base. as she raced around second base without hesitation. The next batter, Jordan, brought pinch-runner Morgan Podany home on a ball hit in the third base, shortstop hole fielding by the third baseman, whose throw home was high and a bit late.

"I wasn't stopping," Gipson said of her hustle play on reaching third base on a single and error. "I wasn't stopping. Coach, earlier in the year, stopped me on a triple. I wasn't stopping this time."

Photography: Johnny Lawrence

Madi Gipson rounds second base and checks where the ball is in the outfield on her way to third base to set up the winning run.

With the victory the Tigers improved to 57-10, topping last season's record victory total.

"I am extremely proud of the Auburn softball team," Coach Clint Myers said, noting that it wasn't the most beautiful win of the season, but a victory that showed his team's mental toughness.

"They did a phenomenal job," Myers added. "It wasn't as pretty as we would like. It wasn't as easy as we would have liked, but I think you saw the fight, I think you saw the heart.

"They beat a very talented, very good Florida State team with great talent and great coaching so I am extremely proud of the Auburn softball team," AU's third-year head coach said. 

Photography: Dakota Sumpter

The Tigers celebrate their walk-off victory on Sunday night after pinch-runner Morgan Podany (left) scored the deciding run.

On a night when Auburn’s pitchers struggled, the Tigers scored seven of their eight runs on the long ball. Carlee Wallace and Rhodes each hit three-run homers while Kasey Cooper hit a solo shot.

For Cooper it was her 20th of the season, breaking the school record set last year by Rhodes, who has 18 this season. For Wallace it was the sophomore catcher’s fifth homer of the season. 

FSU struck first with some help from the Tigers. Kaylee Carlson hit the second FSU batter in the top of the opening inning and she scored on a double to left center field by Alex Powers on a line drive over the shortstop.

Powers moved to third base on a wild pitch and the Seminoles got another runner aboard with two outs on another hit batter, but Carlson got out of the inning with a strikeout.

Auburn responded with a three-run homer in the bottom of the first when Wallace smashed a three-run home to center field, sending home Tiffany Howard, who reached on a single, and Emily Carosone, who walked.

"Basically, I had had enough," Wallace said of the way she was hitting in recent games. "I kinda of just re-grouped. I said I am just going to go up there and get my hacks in."

The lead didn’t last long as the Seminoles scored two runs on three hits and an error to the tie contest and chase starter Carlson, who was relieved by fresham Makayla Martin to start the third inning.

The Seminoles got to Martin for a quick run with a one-out walk, stolen base and a bad throw by Wallace, sending a runner to third where she scored on a single.

Auburn got another big three-run homer, this one from Jade Rhodes in the fourth inning off relief pitcher Jessica Burroughs, who replaced starter Meghan King after a leadoff single by Carosone followed by a walk to Wallace. Rhodes greeted Burroughs with a shot that carried well over the left field wall.

"To be honest, I was just trying to the hit the ball," said Rhodes, who had been in a late-season power slump.

The third long ball was a solo shot by Cooper. The SEC Player of the Year launched a towering shot over the right field fence to make the score 7-4 in the bottom of the fourth.

After a pair of hits in the sixth inning by the Seminoles and one out, Martin was replaced by senior Rachael Walters, who got the Tigers out of the inning with no damage, but a two-out walk loaded the bases to bring the go-ahead run to the plate before the Tigers escaped.

The senior lefty needed three more outs to end the game, but FSU tied the game in the seventh inning on a three-run homer by Cali Herrod as Walters struggled with her control. 

Auburn’s starting pitcher, Carlson, returned to pitch the eighth inning and picked up the win. "It was a dogfight out there," said Carlson, who noted she appreciated the defense her teammates played behind her. 

Photography: Johnny Lawrence

The Tigers celebrate their victory over FSU. The two teams split a doubleheader in the regular season.

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