Mickey Dean and the Auburn Tigers entered the final day of play in the Plainsman Invitational undefeated through the weekend, outscoring its opponents by a combined 42-9 across four games. For the Tigers, Sunday’s finale against UNCW brought more of the same success.
Junior Lexie Handley started for Auburn, marking her fourth start in five games this weekend. The left-handed was able to keep the Seahawks scoreless through the first frame, and received immediate help from her offense.
The Tigers were able to get on the board early and often, with junior Makenna Dowell blasting a solo home run out of the second spot in the lineup in the top of the first.
The home run was Dowell’s second of the weekend.
“To be honest, I surprised myself,” said Dowell. “It was super exciting...it helped bring up my confidence.”
Seven additional RBIs from Maddison Koepke, Maia Engelkes, Jaylin Calvert and Alyssa Rivera, put Auburn ahead 8-0 after just one frame.
Following the conclusion of the first inning, the Tiger offense fell quiet in their next two appearances. However, their pitching and defense didn't trail off. Handley proceeded to post three more scoreless frames, protecting her team’s 8-0 lead heading into the bottom of the fourth inning.
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The bottom of the fourth, which turned out to be the last time Auburn came to the plate, brought more offensive production. Tannon Snow and Carlee McCondichie started the inning with back-to-back home runs, pushing the Auburn lead to 10 and completing the run rule.
In the top of the fifth, Handley’s shutout was ended by a single run posted by the Seahawks but UNCW’s offensive efforts were not enough to escape the mercy rule.
“We needed that," Auburn coach Mickey Dean said. "We have a lot of young kids, and they’ve finally started playing how they know how to play. Our pitchers started pounding the zone, and our defense played decently. The hitters made their adjustments and got comfortable in the box.”
According to Dean, this weekend’s stint of games will serve as a confidence boost going into the Mary Nutter Classic in Palm Springs, California.
“Confidence does a lot of things,” said Dean. “I think we’ve all seen that.”
Auburn softball is now 8-3, and will have three days off until its first game against Arizona State in next weekend’s tournament. First pitch between the Tigers and the Sun Devils will be at 12:30 p.m. CST.
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