COLLEGE STATION, Texas - For the second consecutive game at the 2019 SEC Tournament, an Auburn pitcher threw a complete game shutout to advance the Tigers as Ashlee Swindle went the distance in Auburn's 2-0 win over Tennessee Thursday afternoon.
Auburn, the 10th seed in this year's tournament, becomes the lowest seed in tournament history to advance to the semifinal round. It marks the first time the Tigers (37-18) have advanced to the SEC Tournament semifinals since 2017, when the tournament was played in Knoxville.
The back-to-back shutout performances by Chardonnay Harris and Swindle (10-8) the last two days mark the first time in program history that Auburn has shut out consecutive opponents during the SEC Tournament. It also matches the most shutouts by an Auburn team during a single conference tournament, which was set in 2004.
"I thought we faced pretty good pitching and only took seven first-pitch strikes that we didn't swing at, which had been an issue of ours," Auburn softball head coach Mickey Dean said. "Really, from that fourth inning on, she really started attacking hitters and she kept her pitch count way down, which was a little concerning at first. Of course, the defense played clean and that was the key."
Auburn's offense gave Swindle a 1-0 lead in the top of the second when Justus Perry, with two outs in the inning, roped a 2-0 pitch back up the middle to score Kendall Veach from second. The lead was extended in the fifth inning when Casey McCrackin plated Carmyn Greenwood, who pinch hit for Bree Fornis and reached second base on a Tennessee fielding error, from second with a single to right field on a 0-1 pitch.
"It's easy to pitch when you have such a great defense behind you," Swindle said. "Honestly, I think this was the best defensive night we've had, because, no matter what, when the ball was put in play, I knew it was going to be caught."
Tennessee (39-14) had a two-out baserunner in the bottom of the first, but Swindle's first strikeout ended the inning. The Volunteers, the No. 2 seed entering the tournament, attempted to score, again, in the bottom of the second through fifth innings, but nothing came to pass.
Tennessee's best scoring opportunity came in the bottom of the fifth, but Swindle combined with Veach and Makenna Dowell to erase a runner at the plate, because a flyout to Alyssa Rivera left Volunteers at second and third to end the inning.
Auburn will continue its conference tournament run on Friday, May 10 at 3:30 p.m., when the Tigers face sixth-seeded Florida on ESPN2 and the Auburn Sports Network. The two teams squared off at Jane B. Moore Field during the regular season with the Gators taking two of three. Auburn's lone win of the series came when Chardonnay Harris struck out 17 batters in a 10-inning victory.