In Maddie Penta's single-season program record 35th start of the season, No. 17 Auburn failed to score and fell to No. 14 Clemson 1-0 in an outright pitcher's duel.
Clemson will advance straight to the Clemson Regional Championship on Sunday at 11 a.m. CST and can take the rest of the day off.
On the other hand, Auburn will get ready to play the winner of the loser's bracket game between Louisiana and UNC Wilmington tonight at 5 p.m. CST. The winner of that game will advance to play Clemson on Sunday and will need to beat it twice to advance to the Super Regionals, since the regionals are double elimination.
Penta defined the term workhorse in the game, pitching all six innings in the game after throwing a 107-pitch complete game in the win yesterday. In the end, her six K, three-hit, one-run performance still wasn't enough to get Auburn the win. Instead, she took her 10th loss of the season.
After Clemson's Millie Thompson tossed a no-hitter against UNC Wilmington yesterday, Valerie Cagle took the game over for Clemson in this game, pitching a complete-game shutout and scoring Clemson's only run of the game. She was extremely efficient, striking out six without allowing any free passes.
This game was largely dominated by the pitchers. Auburn managed four hits, all singles, but were shutout. Clemson only got three base knocks, but two of them were extra-base hits.
It is as tough of a challenge as there is to string together hits against Penta, but Clemson did the job in the fourth inning in a two-out rally.
Cagle made her presence felt on offense after dominating in the pitcher's circle for Clemson. She recorded the first extra-base hit of the game in the bottom of the fourth with a double. Completing the two-out rally, Marissa Guimbarda knocked in the first run of the game with another double that fell over shortstop Nelia Peralta's glove in shallow left field.
Auburn finally broke through and threatened in the top of the sixth inning, getting its first runners in scoring position, but nothing came of it.
Freshman Jesse Blaine finally made her return after being injured in SEC Tournament practice and not playing in game one of the regionals. She made the most of it and started a rally with a single off the third baseman's glove. She was pinch ran for by another freshman, Kenadie Cooper, and Auburn played station-to-station.
Next, Kelsey Schidt's grounder up the middle resulted in a fielder's choice that allowed everyone to reach safely. As the lineup moved back to the top, Lindsey Garcia sprayed a single to shallow right field, and everyone advanced 60 feet to load the bases with one out.
With three freshman on base, Clemson put out the fire. After Carlee McCondichie's flout didn't go deep enough to allow Cooper to tag from third base, Peralta grounded to shortstop, and Clemson made the final out of the inning at second base to keep Auburn scoreless.
In the bottom of the sixth, it was Auburn's turn to escape a jam. With runners on first and third and one away, Penta induced two poppets to send the game to the seventh inning with a 1-0 Clemson lead.
Leading off the seventh, Bri Ellis reached for her second time of the game, but two groundouts ensued to put Auburn against the wall, down to its last out.
Makayla Packer wasn't done, though. After she got on first after her forceout, she swiped second for her 20th stolen base of the season. All Auburn needed was a hit to the outfield to give Packer a good chance to score, but Sydney Cox swung and missed, striking out to end the game.
This marked Auburn's second 1-0 loss in the past three contests. The team also lost 1-0 to Missouri in its first game of the SEC Tournament. Runs have been hard to come by lately. It has been nine games since Auburn last reached the five run mark.
Auburn now suits up for an elimination game with the winner of the Louisiana versus UNC Wilmington game. The win-or-go-home game will begin at 5 p.m. CST on ESPN+.
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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.