ORLANDO, Fla. - Senior Marcy Harper went toe-to-toe with one of the better teams in the nation, tossing a complete game shutout Wednesday morning to help No. 3 Auburn defeat No. 15 UCF, 2-0. The win moves Auburn to 6-0 in the young season, while Harper is now 3-0.
The Hoover, Ala.-native scattered four hits and tallied five strikeouts in the victory, while her teammates got just enough run support on offense to defeat All-American pitcher Shelby Turnier and secure Auburn's first win against a ranked opponent this season.
In all three of her starts this season, Harper hasn't given up a run and only allowed eight hits and has 12 strikeouts, leading all Tiger pitchers and remaining toward the top in the SEC standings.
At the plate, Auburn benefitted from three early walks in the first inning by Turnier and got a two RBI single by Carlee Wallace that scored the only two runs of the ball game. Turnier seemed to baffle the Auburn hitters after the rough first inning, striking out 11 and not allowing the Tigers any insurance runs.
Overall, four Auburn players recorded hits in the game, but only senior Tiffany Howard was able to notch more than one base hit as she went 2-for-3 with a run scored and one walk. Howard had one or the more exciting plays on offense in the entire game as she was able to leg out a double off a bunt in the second inning.
As Howard squared around to bunt, both UCF corner infielders charged toward home plate, forcing the second baseman to cover first. When Howard made contact, the ball went straight toward the second base position, catching the entire infield completely off guard. As the ball rolled into the outfield, Howard raced all the way around to second much to the approval of the numerous Auburn fans in attendance.
Harper, however, outdueled the UCF ace from the get-go. The Knights never got more than one baserunner in an inning until the fifth inning. Each time a runner did reach, Harper got the big strikeout of the double-play. Three of Harper's five strikeouts were had before the third inning.
UCF did have a good opportunity to cut into Auburn's lead in the fifth inning. After a leadoff double by Autumn Gillespie, the Knights got her to third base with only one out. A hit by pitch issued by Harper, put runners on the corner as the lineup turned over back to the top.
In the next at-bat, Linnea Goodman laced what looked to be a hit into the left-centerfield gap, but it was tracked down by Auburn's Tiffany Howard. It looked to be deep enough to score the runner from third, but Gillespie had not tagged up before the catch, giving Auburn a huge break and keeping a run off the scoreboard.
Harper escaped the inning with a foul out of the next batter and cruised the rest of the way for her third victory.
Auburn continues its road trip this weekend as it will take part in the Michele Smith PCF Invitational starting on Friday against Oklahoma State and USF with first pitch set at 2:45 and 5 p.m. CT, respectively. The Tigers will also face No. 19 James Madison, DePaul and Fordham throughout the weekend.