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A spirit that is not afraid

Penta reaches 200 Ks in Auburn's mid-week win over Chattanooga

<p>Auburn celebrates a victory over Delaware State during the Plainsman Invite on Feb. 26.&nbsp;</p>

Auburn celebrates a victory over Delaware State during the Plainsman Invite on Feb. 26. 

The game did not end in the fashion it hoped, but Auburn (34-9) nonetheless earned a 7-3 victory over Chattanooga behind a record-setting performance from Maddie Penta on Wednesday to finish out its mid-week schedule.

"It was a tale of two games the way I see it," said Auburn head coach Mickey Dean. "The first three or four innings we were fired up and did a great job. Then, we just kind of coasted on that. All of a sudden in the seventh inning, we get behind on every single batter."

Auburn defeated the Mocs the first time the two clubs faced off on March 6, 12-1, and the Tigers also won via run-rule on Tuesday with a 9-1, five-inning victory over Jacksonville State. This game had run-rule written all over it in the early portion of the contest, but the Mocs forced a full game and took advantage of the final inning.

The Auburn bats showed plenty of life and plenty of power early on. The Tigers scored multiple runs in each of the first three innings but were blanked from then on. Two more long balls from Sydney Cox and Riley McNemar gives the team 74 total home runs on the season.

Auburn jumped out early in the contest, giving Maddie Penta and KK Dismukes a comfortable early lead. The duo looked dominant to start, combining for six innings of shutout ball in the circle with a combined 10 Ks and only four hits allowed. Both pitchers were extremely efficient, with Penta only throwing 39 pitches in three innings with only one walk, and Dismukes went without a walk over her first three innings and only three hits.

However, Dismukes ran out of gas in the seventh inning, and Chattanooga avoided the shutout with three runs. She allowed four hits in the inning, which equaled Chattanooga's game total to that point. Penta then re-entered the game and sat three in a row down on strikes to end the Moc's rally and seal the win for Auburn.

Penta's dominant outing improved her record to 21-4 and her seven Ks pushed her over 200 strikeout mark to give her 201 strikeouts this season. She is the first Auburn pitcher to post a 200-strikeout season since Anna Thompson in 2010.

Dean was asked how proud he is of Penta for reaching that milestone of 200 Ks, and he responded by saying:

"Very," said Dean. "She's been our workhorse. I've told her the last couple of days that we really appreciate what she's doing out there."

Getting runners on second and third to start the game, Jesse Blaine started the scoring with a sacrifice fly to drive Lindsey Garcia in. Following the second out of the inning, Cox stepped in and deposited a ball over the wall in straightaway center to give the Tigers an early 3-0 lead.

Godwin led off the second inning with a homer in her second consecutive game to push the lead to four. After a walk to Schmidt and a Garcia double, Lisenby recorded an RBI groundout to shortstop to cap off the second inning.

"I've been working really hard in practice just to see-ball-hit-ball and not thinking home run when I get up there, but obviously it's really nice when it happens," Godwin said. "I think my main goal is just to see-ball-hit-ball and see it a little later. I went (to the opposite field) on that one because I saw it later."

With a five-run advantage going into the third inning, Auburn added on two more in the home half when Schmidt hit the third single of the inning to score Cox and McNemar, who both touched the plate for their second time of the day.

From that point, the offense went silent, and Chattanooga held the Tigers scoreless throughout the rest of the game to avoid a mercy rule ending. Auburn had opportunities, but stranded three runners in the fifth and sixth innings, including runners on the corners with one out in the sixth inning before a double play ended the threat.

The Mocs took advantage of that last inning, scoring three off Dismukes with four hits and a passed ball in the seventh to force Penta to re-enter the game and throw a fourth inning. 

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"We always tell our pitchers, 'when is a batter going to have their best at-bat? The third time up.' So, you have to work ahead, especially their third time up. It was a 2-0, 2-0, 2-0, 2-0 (count) every time."

Penta then slammed the door, setting the next three hitters down on strikes and stranding a runner on second.The three strikeouts to end the game gave Auburn pitchers 15 in the game, but Dismukes' struggles in the final inning gave the Mocs eight hits, only two fewer than Auburn.

Despite not getting the ending to the game they wanted, the Tigers got 15 position players in the game and recorded 10 hits as a unit. The team will look to build off their two mid-week, non-conference wins when they leave Jane B. Moore field this weekend.

Next up, Auburn will venture out of the Plains and spend a weekend in Starkville for a three-game series with Mississippi State. That series will begin at 5:30 p.m. CST on Friday and will be broadcast 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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