AUBURN, Ala. — One would be hard-pressed to find someone having an April as good as Auburn softball outfielder Alyssa Rivera.
Two days after winning SEC freshman of the week, Rivera kept things going with a home run, 2 RBI and 2 runs scored in No. 7 Auburn’s 6-2 victory over Georgia State on Wednesday night. Since returning to the starting lineup April 1, Rivera is now 11-for-21 at the plate with 6 RBI.
Rivera scored the opening run of the game for the Tigers (34-6, 8-4 SEC) in the 2nd inning and blasted a 2-run bomb to center field in the 3rd. Teammate Carlee Wallace added three RBI of her own with a bases-clearing double in the 2nd.
“See ball, hit ball,” Rivera said. “That’s the motto. See the ball, hit the ball. … I just try not to think about anything. Just get in the box, see the ball, hit the ball. Literally. That’s it.”
In the circle, Auburn pitcher Makayla Martin (14-5) rebounded from a rough outing last Saturday against Ole Miss by pitching five shutout innings in a complete game effort. Martin stranded the bases loaded twice, including a dangerous 5th inning in which the visiting Panthers got their only two runs.
“Mak is still trying to find the girl that pitched the (2016) World Series championship,” Myers said. “She had a rise ball tonight. She hadn’t had that her other times. Her changeup wasn’t as sharp as it has been. But there’s some things we’ve got to do. For the most part, we’re moving in the right direction.”
After breaking through in the bottom of the 2nd, Auburn escaped certain danger in the top of the 3rd unscathed.
Auburn’s offense went 3 up, 3 down in the 1st inning, but it got things rolling in the 2nd. Rivera led off the inning with a single, and fellow freshman Carmyn Greenwood brought her home two batters later. The Tigers then loaded the bases with two outs before Wallace cleared them with her double.
“Tonight, I wasn’t really seeing the ball all that great,” Wallace said. “I really had to lock in, and I swung the hardest I think I’ve swung through a couple of pitches tonight. I don’t really do that.”
Georgia State threatened to take momentum right back in the top of the 3rd by loading the bases on three straight singles. But Martin got an infield fly for the first out, and Auburn turned its national-best 30th double play of the season to get out of the jam without a single run allowed.
“That’s just the game. Sometimes it’ll knock you down and bring you to your knees, and you just have to keep fighting. Live to fight another day. I think that’s what we’ve just got to keep doing — keep fighting and keep grinding it out and not let the frustration get to us.”
Player of the game
RF Alyssa Rivera: 2-for-4 with 1 HR, 2 RBI and 2 R
Earlier this week, Myers said Rivera had the power to hit the ball into the McWhorter Center, the Auburn women’s athletics building that sits just behind the center field fence at Jane B. Moore Field.
Rivera didn’t quite get there with her 2-run homer in the 3rd inning, but she came close. The freshman’s third career bomb brought senior shortstop Haley Fagan home and put Auburn up 6-0.
The home run was the first extra-base hit of Rivera’s hot month of April.
“She’s a good athlete, she just has to keep going,” Myers said. “That how she hits the ball in BP. It’s good to see. Maybe she’ll revert to that swing a little more, because that was excellent. She hit that pitch on the screws. … She’s got tremendous upside.”
132. Martin set a career-high for pitches in a game Wednesday night with 132, as she went the distance in spite of several jams. Auburn warmed up two relievers late, but a bases-loaded double play in the 7th inning caused Myers to keep the sophomore out there.
“I didn’t think it was a place to put (freshman pitcher Ashlee Swindle) in at the time,” Myers said. “Mak’s had some tough luck. We let her go out and finish it, and she got the double play (in the 7th). Mak goes out there and competes.”
Martin entered the game with two losses in her last three contests, with 15 earned runs allowed in that stretch. She cut that down Wednesday night and didn’t allow an extra-base hit. However, Martin remained frustrated after the contest.
“She’s not happy with the way she pitched, but she won,” Myers said. “She gave up 8 hits. She’s going to get ground balls. We’ve just got to play good defense. We catch the ball at second base, the (5th) inning is over. She’s just having some tough luck.”
What’s next for Auburn softball
Auburn continues its home stand with a three-game weekend series against SEC foe Missouri.
The Tigers will get the day off Thursday before taking on Missouri on Friday night, the first of three straight on Easter weekend. The game will begin at 7 p.m. ET/6 p.m. CT, with SEC Network+ streaming the contest.