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A spirit that is not afraid

Auburn breaks SEC losing streak while evening the series at Mississippi State

Helped by a first-inning offensive rally, No. 18 Auburn (35-10, 8-9 SEC) puts its six-game conference losing streak to rest on Saturday, beating Mississippi State 5-2 in game two of the series.

“We had so may kids play in this game and had to contribute,” said Auburn head coach Mickey Dean. “We’re still fighting through injuries, and they came out and did what they did. Shelby Lowe gave us two innings. KK (Dismukes) gave us three. Maddie Penta gives us two. They each gave up one hit. We’re shuffling the outfield and the infield because we have kids playing through injuries, and they battled. I love them.”

Mississippi State didn't record an out in the game until the sixth batter came up for the Tigers after they had already scored two runs, and the Bulldogs had already gone to their bullpen.

Lining a single into right field on the first pitch, Lindsey Garcia gave a little sneak peak of things to come in a three-run top of the first. 

Following Garcia's hit, Makayla Packer put down a bunt that resulted in a fielding error by the pitcher, allowing both runners to advance 60 feet to second and third. Next up, freshman Jesse Blaine knocked them both home with a two-run single. 

After the next two Auburn batter were hit by a pitch, Mississippi State made a pitching change, giving the ball to Grace Fagan.

Fagan came into a bases-loaded, no-out situation and minimized the damage to one more run. The first out was recorded on a force out at home plate before an Aspyn Godwin sacrifice fly sent one more run home to give Auburn a 3-0 lead. That is all the Tigers got for a while, as Riley McNemar struck out to end the inning and Fagan stayed in the pitcher's circle for 3.2 innings without allowing a run.

In fact, Fagan only gave up three hits in her outing, allowing Mississippi State to crawl back into the picture and cut the deficit to one.

In the second inning, the Bulldogs did all of their offensive damage with one swing of the bat. After a strikeut and a walk to start the inning, starter Shelby Lowe took a blow. After a foul popup was dropped by Bri Ellis to prolong the at bat, the count went full, and a high fastball from Lowe caught the bat of Jackie McKenna and barely snuck over the outstretched glove of Garcia in left field for a two-run homer.

This made it a 3-2 game, but that was all the excitement Mississippi State got from its offense in the game, as KK Dismukes took Lowe's place in the circle in the third inning and threw three scoreless innings and only gave up one hit. After she loaded the bases on a single and two walks in the third, she retired seven straight.

However, Fagan was also dealing, and the Auburn bats continued to be silent as well after the three-run opening frame.

Despite getting runners on in every inning from the second to fifth inning, Auburn stranded all of them, and the game remained a one-run difference until the sixth inning.

Much like the first inning, the Tigers dominated on both sides in the sixth to break things open. Aspyn Godwin opened things up with a double, and Carlee McCondichie, who had not been retired in the game, stepped in the batters box and drove a hot shot off the wall in right-center for a RBI double.

Capping off the scoring in the game, McCondichie used her speed on the base paths to her advantage. After being caught stealing this to end the second inning, she moved up to third on a groundout and advanced to the plate after an attempt to pick her off at third base turned into a throwing error to make it 5-2.

With a comfortable three-run pad, Maddie Penta came into the game in the sixth inning after starting the game yesterday and slammed the door with two scoreless innings to earn her first save of the season.

Her success was aided by a magnificent defensive play in center field by Kelsey Schmidt in the sixth. With a runner on first and no outs, the Bulldogs hit a blooper that went mid-depth into right-center field. Just when it looked like it might drop and keep the rally going for Mississippi State, Schmidt sprinted over and sprawled out to make a diving grab for the first out.

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Feeding off the great defensive play, Penta sat down the next five hitters to end the game with a 5-2 win.

This was a big win for Auburn on the road to end its winning streak, and it was a complete team effort. A team that has thrived on the home run ball, Auburn didn't hit any in the game. Strikeouts are also a big key to success for the Auburn pitching staff, and not one of the trio of pitchers recorded more than three Ks, with only six total in the game.

In her strong relief effort, Dismukes earned the win, improving her record to 5-2 this season. This performance will go a long way in Dismukes regaining confidence after her disastrous, three-run seventh inning against Chattanooga on Wednesday.

Also, with a standout effort for the Tigers in the game was McCondichie. She went 3-for-3 and was their only player with a multi-hit performance in the game. Her batting average jumps up to .402 on the campaign with her perfect day. She also scored a run, stole a base and knocked in a run.

With a chance for Auburn to get back to .500 in SEC play, the series' rubber match will take place at noon p.m. CST on Sunday at Nusz Park and will be available to watch on the SEC Network.

Noah Griffith | Assistant Sports Editor

Noah is a senior in journalism from Salem, Alabama. He joined the Plainsman in August of 2021 after transferring in from Southern Union Community College.

Twitter: @NoahGG01

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