No. 4 Auburn made its presence quickly known in the USF Tournament Friday as the Tigers swept a doubleheader over North Dakota State and USF.
Madi Gipson hit a walk-off single to down the Bison of North Dakota State, 2-1, while Makayla Martin shutout the Bulls of USF in the second game.
“I thought we played good defense,” said head coach Clint Myers. “Offensively, we left too many on base, but pitching-wise we were good in the circle.”
The Tigers (24-3) were led in the circle by Kaylee Carlson and Martin, who combined to surrender just five hits in 14 innings pitched. The talented duo also tallied 11 strikeouts in back-to-back complete games.
At the plate, Victoria Draper led the way with four hits between the two games. Kasey Cooper racked up three hits, including one home run, while Casey McCrackin and Carlee Wallace chimed in with two hits apiece.
In the opening game against the Bison (10-16), Carlson was magnificent right from the start.
The Garden Grove, Calif. native was perfect through the first four stanzas in the circle, totaling three strikeouts in the process.
Offensively, Auburn was able to put seven runners on base through the opening four innings, but could not scratch a run across.
In the fifth, North Dakota State opened the scoring with a solo home run to make it 1-0.
That lead did not last long, however, as Cooper tattooed a 2-1 pitch over the right field wall to knot the game back up at 1-1.
Neither team was able to add to its tally in the sixth, setting up a nervy seventh frame.
In the top half, the Bison put two on with two outs, but Carlson buckled down and sent the final batter down looking to keep the score level.
Needing only one run to win, Cooper and Haley Fagan notched consecutive singles with one down. After a Kendall Veach walk, Gipson stepped to the batter’s box looking to put the ball into play.
The junior did just that by drilling a single through the right side and end the game as Bree Fornis, who was pinch-running on the play, scooted home to give the Tigers a 2-1 victory.
In the second game of the day, Auburn plated all four of its runs scattered across the opening four stanzas.
The Tigers crossed the plate for the first time in the second inning after the bases were loaded from hit-by-pitches by Gipson and Morgan Podany and a walk by McCrackin. Wallace then was issued a free pass on five pitches to score the game’s opening run.
Alyssa Rivera doubled Auburn’s lead in the third when she laced an RBI double down the chalk in left that scored the speedy Veach from first.
In the fourth, after a Draper infield single, Wallace took a belt-high fastball and lifted it over the wall for a two-run shot, making it 4-0 in favor of the road squad.
That was all Martin needed as she allowed only two hits in the seven innings en route to her fourth shutout of the season.
At one point, the sophomore retired 13 of 15 through the fifth inning.
The Bulls (18-12) loaded the bases with the tying run at the plate in the bottom of the seventh, but Martin induced a grounder to McCrackin to register the final out and send the Tigers to their 13th shutout of 2017.
Auburn returns to action Saturday for a doubleheader against Big Ten foes Illinois and Ohio State. Action is set to begin at the Eddie C. Moore Softball Complex in Clearwater, Fla. at 11 a.m. CST.