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Auburn softball completes season-opening sweep

Feb 14, 2021; Auburn, AL, USA; Denver Bryant (7) up to bat during the game between Auburn and Southeast Missouri State at Jane B Moore Field. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Shannon/AU Athletics
Feb 14, 2021; Auburn, AL, USA; Denver Bryant (7) up to bat during the game between Auburn and Southeast Missouri State at Jane B Moore Field. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Shannon/AU Athletics

Auburn softball completed the 3-game sweep of Southeast Missouri State to open its season on Sunday, advancing to 3-0 for the first time since 2018. Behind freshman pitcher Maddie Penta and a three-run fourth, the Tigers secured a 3-1 victory.

A two-out rally in the bottom of the second that scored three runs proved to be the difference-maker in Auburn’s victory. Back-to-back RBI doubles from Makenna Dowell and Tyler King gave the Tigers a 2-0 lead before Kaylee Horton tacked on another with her RBI single.

"It's like any other three-game series, the third one is always the toughest," said head coach Mickey Dean. "I thought our pitchers did a pretty decent job working out of trouble and staying focused."

Following a no-hitter in her collegiate debut in Game 1 of the double-header Saturday, RHP Maddie Penta was back on the mound for Game 3 of the series. The freshman picked up where she left off with a three-up, three-down inning in the first with one strikeout.

Alyssa Rivera singled with one out in the bottom of the frame and then stole second for the Tigers' first scoring chance. Aspyn Godwin then struck out and Justus Perry lined out to third, ending the scoring chance and sending the game into the second inning scoreless.

After another 1-2-3 frame from Penta in the top of the second, Kelsey Schmidt earned a lead-off walk in the bottom of the second for Auburn. The Tigers played a bit of small ball, with Makayla Packer sacrificing a bunt to move Schmidt to second.

After another Auburn strikeout, Dowell came to the plate with two outs and Schmidt standing on second. Dowell laced a pitch out to right field, a line drive to the wall that scored Schmidt and gave Auburn a 1-0 lead.

Dowell finished the day a perfect 3-for-3 with two singles, a double, an RBI and a stolen base.

"I've been struggling a little bit recently at the plate and I've been trying to change too many things," Dowell said. "Today I just went back to my usual ways, stayed calm and it worked out for me."

King then hit a blooper into left field that fell into play; her speed allowed her to slide safely into second as Dowell crossed the plate for another two-out RBI double from the Tigers. Auburn added another run off of Horton’s single into center field before the inning ended, giving the Tigers a 3-0 lead heading into the third.

Auburn had scored three runs, all with two outs.

"You can have all the hits in the world, but it really comes down to timely hitting," Dean said. "That's how you win ball games. We put ourselves in a good position that inning. We were able to put some people in motion and we got some timely hits. We ended up putting a crooked number up on the board and it ended up standing up."

Southeast Missouri answered in the top of the third, scoring its only run of the game. Austine Pauley hit a grounder to the left side of the infield and edged out an infield hit, becoming the first baserunner of the day for Southeast Missouri State.

The infield single was the first hit that Penta had allowed all weekend. Hailing from Chesapeake City, Maryland, Penta opened her college career with 7.1 hitless innings over the weekend.

She pitched a complete game, striking out six, allowing two hits and no earned runs over her seven innings of work.

"It's nice to have Maddie out there and see those things," Dean said. "I thought the thing I was most proud of Maddie was she throws a no-hitter yesterday, she comes up today and gives up a hit early in the game and is still able to maintain her focus. To see that out of a freshman is very pleasing."

Penta then hit the Redhawks’ Jillian Anderson with a pitch, putting runners at first and second for Kynzie Wrigley. Wrigley hit a hard grounder down the third base line that squeaked by on an error and Pauley scored from second. It brought the score to 3-1, in favor of Auburn.

The Redhawks attempted a late comeback in the top of the seventh, putting runners on first and second with just one out. Penta and the Tigers shut them down, striking out Pauley and ending the game on a fly out to right field.

Neither team crossed the plate again, resulting in a series sweep to open the 2021 season for the Tigers. Auburn will next make the trip to Jacksonville, Florida, to participate in the Osprey/Dolphin Invitational.

It will play two double-headers, one on Friday and another on Saturday. The Tigers' first game will be against fellow SEC team, South Carolina, on Friday at noon CST, followed by a 5 p.m. game against Jacksonville.

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