CLEARWATER, Fla. -- The No. 3 Auburn softball team knew it was going to get a tough test Saturday as it began day two of the Michele Smith PCF Invitational with No. 19 James Madison. Going up against one of the more strong pitchers that the Tigers have seen this season and cold bats were not a good combo as Auburn suffered its first loss of the year to the Dukes (8-1), 3-2.
Auburn (9-1) bounced back in a huge way in their second game of the day, beating DePaul (2-7), 18-0, in five innings, to secure its ninth victory of the year and fourth of the week. The run-rule victory was the fifth for the Tigers this season marking half of their games being won early.
Senior pitcher Lexi Davis (1-0) got the win against the Blue Demons, her first of the season as she tossed a complete game shutout, giving up only two hits in her first start of the season.
In game one, senior Marcy Harper (3-1) got the call and pitched a solid six innings, giving up only three earned runs on four hits with five strikeouts.
However, she just couldn't get the run support as the only glimmer of offense came on solo home runs from redshirt sophomore Madi Gipson and sophomore Courtney Shea. For Shea, she sets a new season-high for home runs and continued upping her total with another homer against DePaul later in the day.
Gipson's second homer of the year came in the bottom of the second inning and was the first run scored by either team. Auburn held that lead until the fourth inning when the Dukes finally got to Harper, scoring twice on an RBI double by Taylor Newton and an RBI single by Tahli Moore. With that 2-1 lead, James Madison never looked back, adding one more in the sixth for a 3-1 lead.
The Tigers almost rallied in the seventh with Shea's lead off big fly to cut the lead to 3-2. Shea corked one down the right field line and it stay well left of the foul pole for the home run. Unfortunately, Auburn couldn't muster anymore in the final frame, leaving one runner stranded on first.
Auburn hasn't had quite the high scoring offense this week that was seen at last week's Plainsman Invite. But, it put those questions to rest against DePaul, unloading for 18 runs on 20 hits for the fourth-largest run output in a game this season.
As a team, the Tigers hit four home runs in the big victory, one each from Kasey Cooper, Madi Gipson, Courtney Shea and Emily Carosone. Gipson and Shea each hit a long ball in both games Saturday providing all the offense against James Madison and the spark for offense against DePaul.
The game also provided a nice performance from Carosone at the plate, who had gone hitless in the last four games. The Orlando, Fla.-native went 3-for-3 against DePaul with two RBI, a double and home run.
All three of Auburn's All-Americans finished Saturday on high notes. Along with Carosone's three hits, Cooper went 1-for-3 with a two-run home run, her team lead tying third of the year and Tiffany Howard was just a home run short of the cycle as she went 4-for-4 with two singles, a double and a triple. It's her first four-hit game of the year and first triple of the year.
Auburn will finish out the Michele Smith PCF Invitational on Sunday with a single game against Fordham starting at 8 a.m. CT at the Eddie C. Moore Softball Complex.