Seminoles Silence AU Bats In Regional Opener

Auburn, Ala.--The Auburn softball team struggled in almost every aspect of their opening round game of the NCAA Regional Tournament on Friday night at Jane B. Moore Field.

Auburn's opponent, Florida State, which had lost eight of its last nine games coming into the match-up, was on top of its game in almost every area, which led to a 5-0 defeat for the second-seeded Tigers and a trip to the losers bracket of the double-elimination, four-team tournament. AU will play Florida A&M at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday after the Lady Rattlers lost 1-0 on Friday night to Baylor, who will play at noon in the winners bracket vs. FSU.

It was not the kind of performance the home team was hoping for as it played its first ever NCAA softball tournament game as a regional host.

Holly Currie pitches for the Tigers on Friday night.

Auburn was never able to get things going at the plate, on the mound or even in the field, where an error led to the Seminoles' first run of the game. Now, the Tigers will be forced to try and claw their way out of the losers bracket and win four straight games if they are going to win their first ever NCAA Regional Tournament.

Tigers' head coach Tina Deese said following the game that her team knew what to expect from the third-seeded Seminoles coming into the game, but just couldn't break out at the plate.

"It was an extremely disappointing loss for us, of course, on our home field," she said. "As far as what they presented us, they didn't really do anything unexpected, but we got behind early and the bats just shut down. It was a tough loss, tough loss.

"I don't think they are rolling over and dying," the coach added about the way her team played. "I think they are just putting a lot of pressure on themselves."

Senior catcher Sara Dean added that even though it is hard coming out with a loss like that at home, she believes her team can still win the tournament. "It's tough, but we can bounce back," she noted. "We have just got to hit."

The Seminoles, who moved their record to 30-22 with the win, got the scoring started in the second inning on some aggressive base running and a throwing error by Dean. With two outs and runners on first and second, Seminoles' center fielder Tatiana George took a lead away from second, but a throw from Dean was too wide for shortstop Ashley Griffin to handle and George headed home as the throw back to the plate from center field was unable to beat her to the plate.

The 20th-ranked Tigers, who dropped to 49-17 with the loss, made a little bit of noise and threatened to tie things up in the bottom of the inning with runners on second and third with two outs and second baseman Lolani Alvarez at the plate. However, the Tigers' momentum was stalled as rain and lightning caused a weather delay that lasted almost an hour and a half. Following the delay, Alvarez fought off a number of fastballs from Casey Hunter, but was unable to catch up with the final one and went down swinging.

George added another run for the Seminoles as she led off the fourth with a solo blast that got out of the park very quickly over the right centerfield wall. Then, after Currie walked LaShun Davis, Dees decided to make a pitching change and sent in Beth DiPietro, who was playing third base for the first three innings.

Currie, who stayed in the lineup as the designated player, led-off the fourth inning for the Tigers by placing a single just over the bag at third and right on the baseline for Auburn's first hit of the game. Then, with freshman Brittany Scott pinch-running Sara Dean sacrificed her to second with one out. However, again the Tigers could not put the run across the plate as Paige Jones struck out and Sara Ghezzi popped out to third to end the threat.

Veronica Wootson blew the game open in the fifth as she blasted the Seminoles' second round-tripper of the game, this time it was a two-run shot over the left field wall to give her team a 4-0 lead.

Holly Currie, who was a second-team All SEC team member, went three innings giving up two runs, one earned, on four hits and took the loss to drop to 24-10. DiPietro took over and finished off the final four innings giving up three more runs on five hits.

Second-Team All ACC hurler, Casey Hunter got the call for the 'Noles and was dominating as she went the full seven innings and pitched shutout softball on only two hits and two walks while striking out eight Auburn hitters. The senior pushed her record to 20-16 with the win.

If the Tigers can defeated Florida A&M on Saturday afternoon then they will face the loser of Saturday's winners bracket game in a game that is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Saturday with the winner moving on to play on Sunday.

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