AUBURN, Alabama — Auburn softball’s rebirth under Clint Myers has again resulted in a berth in the Women’s College World Series.
The No. 4 Tigers faced elimination and knocked off Arizona twice Sunday, including the decisive 6-1 win in Game 3, to survive and advance to its second straight appearance in Oklahoma City. Those are the only two appearances ever for the Tigers’ softball program, which has experienced tremendous growth on the national scene under Myers.
“It could be a very, very good World Series for us,” Myers said.
For Auburn, every misfire this season has resulted in a comeback from mistakes. These Tigers learn, they adapt and they usually strike back. And as Myers faced off against his friend and former rival, Arizona coach Mike Candrea, the former Arizona State coach finally came away with a winning record (13-12) against his mentor and buddy.
No. 4 Auburn (54-10) struggled against left-handers throughout the postseason, including a 5-3 loss in Game 1 against Arizona, but adjusted and came through in clutch moments as it faced elimination twice Sunday.
Simply put, Auburn figured out the conundrum of its infield defense in Game 1 and discovered success against left-hander Danielle O’Toole by scoring four runs (two earned) off the Arizona starter in the first three innings of Game 3. She allowed only two hits Saturday night, including a home run in the ninth.
“These girls played an outstanding game,” Myers said. “They played an outstanding two games. They beat a very, very good Arizona team and they did it because they stayed with the plan, they were pulling for each other. They each went out and executed the things that needed to be executed.”
Auburn wasted no time against O’Toole in Game 3. Kasey Cooper’s double scored Tiffany Howard and Carlee Wallace’s sacrifice fly brought in another run to give Auburn a 2-0 lead in the first. Auburn scored two more runs on Wallace’s fielder’s choice, with one of the runs scoring via third baseman Katiyana Mauga’s throwing error to home plate in the third.
Haley Fagan, who returned from knee surgery earlier this month in the SEC Tournament, drilled her first home run in more than one year to provide the Tigers a 5-0 lead with two outs in the fifth. Emily Carosone added an insurance run with a one-run single with two outs in the seventh.
“Look at what Auburn has accomplished with these coaches being here,” Carosone said. “That was the expectation that we were going to go to Oklahoma City and go all the way.”
Arizona (40-21) threatened in the sixth and came through on Nancy Bowling’s RBI single with two outs. Auburn starter Kaylee Carlson, however, forced a groundout on the next batter to maintain a four-run lead.
Auburn knocked off Arizona 4-1 earlier Sunday in Game 2 of the series to stave off elimination. Freshman pitcher Makayla Martin kept the Wildcats’ bats quiet.
“Unbelievable today,” Auburn pitching coach Corey Myers said. “I’m extremely proud of the youngster over there. It was an attitude I haven’t seen out of her in a long time.
“Going into the postseason, if she can keep that mentality, we’re going to go a long way.”
Auburn will face the winner of the UCLA-Oregon Super Regional at the Women’s College World Series starting Thursday. The Tigers fell short in the national semifinals last season.
“We’re more prepared this year,” Carosone said. “Last time it was new for us. … Now we know what to expect. We know what the field is like, we know it’s a little hard, we know the foul lines are a little further than ours. We know how it goes. Yeah, we’re excited.”
Auburn fans are rolling this tree outside Jane B. Moore Field. Tigers headed to Women's College World Series. pic.twitter.com/e2N2xkq2Dd
— Brandon Marcello (@bmarcello) May 30, 2016