The No.17 Auburn Tigers (39-16 SEC:15-9) defeated the Mississippi State Bulldogs (28-24 SEC: 7-6) in a three-game series that was capped off by a packed Jane B. Moore field, and Maddie Penta putting in a performance of a lifetime in the circle.
The first game of Auburn’s last regular season series was held on May 5th, in front of a packed house. A trend that would continue as Jane B. Moore filled up the entire weekend even with Commencement happening right down the road, and several students beginning the trek home as finals wrapped up.
“That crowd is awesome, to see the same faces and just the excitement,” said Auburn head coach Mickey Dean, “and I thought our kids did a pretty good job of giving them a good show this year.”
Auburn would win that first game 5-2 after a dominating performance from Maddie Penta who would go on to earn her 24th win of the season.
Penta’s complete game win would include 10 strikeouts and only four hit’s given up. Penta would also be perfect until the fifth inning.
That fifth inning would not only produce the first hit for the Bulldogs but their first and only runs as well. Madisyn Kennedy would rocket one off the scoreboard to make it 2-0 going into the bottom of the fifth.
Auburn knew they would have to get crafty to strike back at the Bulldogs, Auburn would tie the program record for steals in an SEC game with six.
Stealing bases was how Auburn grabbed their first runs of the evening, with Lindsey Garcia stealing home on a passed ball to make it 2-1 going into the sixth inning.
The bottom of the sixth was where Auburn turned their fortunes around however, as Auburn would grab back the lead first with a Bri Ellis with a two-run single.
"Striking out my at-bat before really stung," Ellis said. "And that was in another big moment, so this time, I really wanted to get a hit. I just had to try something different. I got a good pitch, and I'm glad I swung at it."
Bri Ellis would cross the plate later in the inning due to a throwing error, and Auburn would finish their sixth inning with Abbey Smith would come in to score off a squeeze bunt from KK McCray.
"Coach (Eugene) Lenti has the confidence in us to execute play," McCrary said. "We were swinging it tonight, We just needed need to execute in those clutch moments, and we finally came through. I'm glad they had the confidence in me to lay down the bunt because it caught the defense by surprise and scored another run."
"We had been having good at-bats the whole game," said Dean. "We just weren't scoring runs. I told them I was proud of them because they showed real maturity. When you're having that many hits and not scoring, it can be frustrating. You can kind of lose it, but we didn't. We stuck with it."
Auburn would survive two singles and a hit-by-pitch in the top of the seventh to hold and win the first match 5-2.
State would not be deterred however, winning a hard-fought 5-4 that saw the packed crowd getting two free innings of softball.
"We fought," said head coach Mickey Dean.
Fighting was certainly what the pitching was doing, as Shelby Lowe would get the start for the Tigers and would go five innings giving up seven hits and grabbing four strikeouts.
Annabelle Widra would take over in the sixth and finish the game for the Tigers and was given the loss with three hits given up along with one earned run.
Rose Roach would be a major contributor at the plate, with one of Auburn’s five hits, and a two Rbi, single that helped Auburn jump out to an early lead.
That one earned run would come in the top of the ninth with Chloe Malau'ulu hitting a single up the middle and scoring one that held up in the bottom of the ninth as Mississippi State set up the rubber match 5-4.
The rubber match was played in front of another packed crowd, as seniors Carlee McCondichie, Aspyn Godwin, Lindsey Garcia, and Maia Engelkes were all honored pregame before an (3-0) Auburn win capping off a fantastic regular season for the Tigers.
Auburn’s scoring was highlighted by a Nelia Peralta homerun that was almost robbed but fell out of the centerfielder’s glove to go over the fence. The other homerun hitter for the Tigers was Lindsey Garcia who demolished a two-run shot over the right-center fence to make it 3-0 in the bottom of the fifth.
“I was committed to it the whole time,” said Garcia, ”if it wasn’t in the zone it would have been pretty ugly.”
Turning in a clinic in the circle was Maddie Penta who earned her 25th win with a complete game shutout. Penta grabbed eight strikeouts and only gave up one hit in the dominating performance.
“It was a great win,” said Penta, “my defense played great behind me.”
Penta also gave a grand reindentation of the star-spangled banner before the game, sending the packed crowd at Jane B. Moore field crazy.
The series win all but solidified a two-round bye in the SEC tournament, The tournament will start May 9th on SECN at 6:30 CT.